Waiting For An Ebola Vaccine

Getting a shot is only a few seconds of discomfort, but that's the first line of defense against an infectious disease.

It's a process Emergent Biosolutions in Lansing knows well, as the only company that produces a licensed anthrax vaccine.

"Phase one is safety, phase two is selection and dose ranging, phase three we try to evaluate does it really work do we get the immune response we want," said President of the Biodefense Division at Emergent Adam Havey.

Even though Emergent Biosolutions is not involved with making an Ebola vaccine they say it will take some time to get one.

"It's not something that you can ramp up in weeks or months, you're really talking years to get something even into people," Havey said.

From start to finish the process of creating a vaccine and getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration can take up to 15 years.

"Probably cost organizations somewhere between $500 million to $1 billion, so it's a long expensive endeavor," Havey added.

The National Institute of Health is working on an Ebola vaccine, but has not started testing on humans.

With a virus that kills 60 to 90 percent of it's victims, doctors say any sort of defense is vital.

"You have these communicable diseases that are very low but can cause very severe outbreaks when those that aren't vaccinated are exposed to it," said MaryAnn Tran, an infectious diseases physician.

Thanks to health care standards doctors say the risk of transmission in the U.S. is low.

"Once the patient is here, especially in the hospitals, they are isolated very quickly from everyone else," Tran explained.

The only prevention would be a vaccine and emergent knows there aren't many shortcuts.

"Things can go faster and there's ways to accelerate that but it's a long and expensive process to get to the finish line," Havey said.

The Ingham County Health Department is starting to send information to doctors in the county, giving them tips on what to do if a patient has recently traveled to West Africa and start showing symptoms of Ebola.


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