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An Ebola Vaccine - But for Whom?

Photo of Armand Leone

The push to develop a vaccine against the Ebola virus is on, and vaccination is going to be an important part of controlling this contagious disease. Phase 1 trials are slated to begin soon in the United States. Even if adequate safety and immunogenicity are demonstrated in the phase 1 studies, vaccines will not be available in substantial quantity until the first quarter of 2015 at the earliest. Even if an effective vaccine can be produced, it is not likely to be 100% effective to succeed in stemming the current or future outbreaks. There are different strains and the virus continues to mutate. While I agree that an Ebola vaccine is an important of the global strategy to control the virus, I do not agree that Americans should receive an Ebola vaccine and be subjected to the risk a serious adverse event or death, unless they are traveling to an endemic area. So why are we doing these Phase 1 trials on Americans?

As someone who represents individuals who are injured by vaccinations in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, I recognize that the benefits of vaccination have to be weighed against the risks of rare but serious injury. Measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis and other infectious diseases exist in the United States and individuals can suffer serious injury if they suffer one of these infections. Vaccination helps to reduce these infections for which Americans are at risk. However, Americans who do not travel to the endemic areas in West Africa are not at risk of getting Ebola.

There simply is no benefit to vaccinating the American population for Ebola. There is no benefit to weigh against the risk of a serious adverse reaction. Furthermore, new vaccines have risk profiles that are unknown. There is no reason to subject Americans to the risk of an Ebola vaccination death or injury. So why are we doing these clinical trials here? We don't need an Ebola vaccine in America.

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