Monday, June 15, 2015

EBOLA - Testing Ain't Easy

"Why testing an Ebola vaccine isn’t so easy" PBS NewsHour 6/12/2015


SUMMARY:  In Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the Ebola epidemic has been a nightmare, the promise of a vaccine offers hope.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on the challenges of conducting experimental drug trials there and the desperate need to find a fix.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now the last in our series on Ebola in West Africa — tonight, a look at new research to help stop or slow the next outbreak.  The best hope may ultimately come from a new vaccine.

Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports, part of his series on Cracking Ebola’s Code.

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  It’s dark and early in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  A team of pharmacists is in a nondescript government building preparing the day’s supply of an experimental vaccine against Ebola.

The clock starts running when they take the vaccine out of a very deep freeze.  This is likely the coldest spot in the whole country.  The vaccine can only be thawed out right before it is injected, or it will lose its potency, and all of this will be a waste of time, money and hope.

So, right now, timing and temperature are absolutely critical.  And then it happens.

WOMAN:  The power went out.

MILES O’BRIEN:  Another reminder of how hard it is to conduct a high-tech vaccine trial in one of the poorest countries on the planet.  But they are ready.  They have got two backup generators for the building, solar-charged batteries, and, if all else fails, a special container that maintains about 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit for five days without power.

Pharmacist Morrison Jusu is delivering the vaccine three-and-a-half miles across Freetown.  After a seemingly endless national nightmare, he carries a cooler full of expectations.  He knows much is riding with him.

MORRISON JUSU, STRIVE Trial Research Team:  Some people lost family members.  And some families were essentially wiped out as a result of this thing.  And if this vaccine proves out to be something that prevents such in the future, then it’s — it’s — words cannot describe how much relief that would be to this community.

MILES O’BRIEN:  While Jusu and the vaccine are wending their way, a line is growing outside their destination, Freetown’s Connaught Hospital.

The volunteers start showing up before dawn.  They are health care workers.  This trial is limited to them because they are, by far, the most at risk of contracting Ebola virus disease.  Even though there is no evidence the vaccine poses any real danger, they must weigh the rumors and the uncertainties.

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