Ebola is a deadly disease and it has already claimed more than 4,500 lives with more deaths added to the tolls each day. At least one large American corporation is trying to do something about the problem and it hopes to administer its solution within the next several months. The company is health care giant Johnson & Johnson and it is working with a Danish pharmaceutical company to create a vaccine against this frightening illness.
Testing, One, Two, Three
Johnson & Johnson has a little known division called Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies that is hard at work to develop an Ebola vaccine. Partnering with Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic, Johnson & Johnson has invested up to $200 million on finding a quick solution to the Ebola threat. The companies are moving quickly, as there is little time to spare when confronting a disease that has claimed thousands of lives with as many as 10,000 total confirmed cases.
Johnson & Johnson says it will begin testing its vaccine in January. The treatment involves a regimen involving two treatments, two months apart. In animal tests, the treatments have proven completely successful but further tests will be needed before any conclusions can be drawn regarding human protection/effectiveness.
Ebola has been confined (so far!) mostly to the Western African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The United States has witnessed only a few cases but due to the deadliness of the disease, the problem seems far worse than reality dictates. In these Western African nations, however, the situation is far different and citizens of these countries are rightfully concerned that they could become one of Ebola’s next victims.
Ebola has no proven vaccine at the moment, but Johnson & Johnson and others are working fast to come up with a treatment/cure against the disease. If the tests show that the treatment effectively triggers an immune system response against Ebola, then the World Health Organization and others will administer the vaccine on a wider basis to the affected regions.
Western Africa is in greatest need of help against the Ebola threat. A vaccine, even if only partially effective, could at least help stop the spread of the disease and prevent the Ebola epidemic from turning into a full- blown pandemic. Introducing a vaccine to Africa makes sense, but what about other countries? At the moment, there have been fewer than 10 Ebola diagnoses in the USA and fewer than 10 in Europe. With the numbers so small, does it make sense to take a vaccine against a disease that isn’t really a threat?
It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children- and themselves- against a deadly disease. There is no such threat in the United States or Europe right now, but you just know there will be those who will take the vaccine anyway and those who will be more than happy to administer it, even when they know that the threat is too small to matter. Whether the U.S. government will regulate who can get treated remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if you see and hear advertising in the coming months offering Ebola vaccines to Americans and others who live in places where the disease isn’t truly a threat.
Nothing to Take Lightly
Ebola is a scary virus. The death rate for those who contract the disease is around 70 percent and the Center for Disease Control estimates that, under worst case scenario conditions, the number of Ebola cases could climb to between 537,000 and 1,367,000 by January 20, 2015 without any intervention. Under best- case scenarios, which include administering available treatments and confining the infected away from others, the number of victims will be between 11,000 and 27,000 cases by January 20, 2015.
Ebola is certainly not a disease that should be treated with indifference. It has already claimed thousands of lives with more diagnosed cases each day. But at the same time, it’s not a disease so widespread in the United States as to induce panic. With effective measures taken by the Center for Disease Control, quarantining of infected individuals, and a possible vaccine from Johnson & Johnson or some other company, Ebola could and should meet its end in the coming year.
Copyright 2014, Bryan Carey