Vaccine Would Protect People From Ebola, 'Lancet' Reports
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Scientists say they've created a safe and highly effective vaccine against the Ebola virus. That's the virus that killed thousands in West Africa a couple of years ago. Dr. Anthony Fauci is here to talk about it. He's head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He's on the line. Welcome back to the program, sir.
ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you.
INSKEEP: How big a breakthrough is this?
FAUCI: Very important in that, as you know, it was a devastating situation in West Africa. And what the vaccine trials showed - that if you vaccinated people very shortly after they came into contact with someone who has Ebola, that you could protect those individuals from that transmission that potentially could have happened from person to person contact.
INSKEEP: Wait a minute. You're saying that you can actually vaccinate people after they've come into contact with Ebola?
FAUCI: Exactly. So what happened is that if you look at the contact and the contacts of the contacts - that under normal circumstances, there would be spread from one to another. So if you vaccinate a cluster of people who were in that contact, they may not necessarily themselves had had personal contact, but they were at least in the group that were very close to that person.
And if you acutely went at them, vaccinated them - that in the group they got vaccinated immediately, there was essentially no cases of Ebola, whereas those in which the vaccination was delayed there were a number of cases, which tells you, at least in the acute situation, this is a good way to protect people who are coming into contact with Ebola-infected individuals.
INSKEEP: You're saying we don't have to, like, do like smallpox or other vaccines and try to vaccinate everybody? You can - if there's an outbreak, you can go there with a vaccine. You can do a lot of good very quickly.
FAUCI: Right, exactly. But the next step, Steve, that's important is that we want to make an even better vaccine, one that you could preemptively ahead of time vaccinate, for example, health care workers and make sure they have a durable protection, not one that just protects you around the immediate time of contact. So this is really an important advance, but we'd like to do even better - to have a vaccine that you could give to people months and maybe even a year or so ahead of time.
INSKEEP: Well, let me ask about the practicality of this and also how effective it really is, Dr. Fauci. It commonly takes 10, 15, 20 years to develop new drugs and make sure they're properly tested. Are you sure, after a couple of years, this really works and works safely?
FAUCI: Yeah, at least in this situation. In this acute situation, we're fairly certain it works. The study itself was relatively small when you think in terms of the numbers of people you generally do in a big, massive vaccination trial. And that's the reason why vaccine trials are still going on to determine if we can get a better immune response. But we feel reasonably confident in the results of this particular trial.
INSKEEP: Can you do the same thing with the Zika virus?
FAUCI: Well, that's exactly what we're doing right now. We're right in the middle of testing a Zika vaccine. And if we have a resurgence of an outbreak in South America this coming few months, which will be their summer, we'll be able to test it under those circumstances.
INSKEEP: Dr. Fauci, always a pleasure talking with you.
FAUCI: Good to be with you.
INSKEEP: Dr. Anthony Fauci is head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
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