Ebola is in the air and so is the new “flu season”. What else could pharmaceutical giants wish for? Vaccination season is here and health authorities everywhere are already calling on all misinformed to get vaccinated against the flu.
There is no link between Ebola and the flu, except that in some countries people with flu symptoms may be deemed too dangerous to walk around and may be quarantined as a “preventive measure”. In other countries, children with the flu may be forcibly vaccinated without their parents’ consent.
“In the month since a Liberian man infected with Ebola traveled to Dallas, where he later died, the nation has marinated in a murky soup of understandable concern, wild misinformation, political opportunism and garden-variety panic,” says Jennifer Steinhauer, who reports how fear of Ebola has turned people into mindless drones.
It is precisely fear and disinformation what prompts people to make wrong decisions, such as vaccinating themselves and their families. “Obviously there’s fear,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview.
While some health authorities are already calling for providing new Ebola vaccines a fast track so that they can be used on the field in Africa, others are taking advantage of the Ebola scare to remind people of their “duty” to get vaccinated against the flu.
In Canada, the government has decided to send 800 ampoules of his experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization so they can be injected into African patients. According to the WHO, the current outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people and another 9,000 have been infected in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. Mr Fauci himself recently called for the mass vaccination of Africans to prevent the spread of the virus.
With the Canadian donation the WHO itself will be responsible for deciding how and where this vaccine is used as a coordinating body of the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, explained Health Canada in a statement published by Canadian Press, the state news agency.
A WHO statement said it organization is open to consultations with health authorities in the affected countries to decide how best to distribute and use this vaccine, weighing the use of an experimental human vaccine.
Canada announced in September the start of clinical trials of an experimental vaccine in the United States whose initial results will be obtained in December.
“This vaccine is the result of many years of scientific research and innovation and could be an important to tackle the outbreak,” stated a spokesman for the Canadian Ministry, Dr. Gregory Taylor.
“We will continue working closely with the WHO to address the ethical and logistical outstanding issues concerning the use of this experimental vaccine in the fight against Ebola,” he added.
While the United States has sent thousands of troops to “help secure the region” and to “build medical facilities” in the region, the European Union is analysing the shipment of health workers to West Africa. The EU is also studying the use of at least 1 billion euros to fight Ebola.
Undoubtedly, much of this money will be dedicated to stocking up on Ebola vaccines, should an experimental dose become suitable in the minds of health officials. In addition to Canada, Russia is also working on a vaccine to fight Ebola.
In Europe, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the British multinational that is an important producer of vaccines, said last week that a “working vaccine would not be readily available until late 2015”. According to the pharmaceutical giant, the arrival of the vaccine may be too little too late to curb the spread of Ebola in Africa.
GSK’s statement may have a negative effect on public health as some governments may opt for using experimental vaccines that have not been proven to be effective or safe.
But even if the vaccine were safe and effective, as it happened in many other cases, creating and mass producing it would be in the hands of large pharmaceutical companies whose only incentive to do so is money. “The problem with that is, even if you’ve got a way of making a vaccine, unless there’s a big market, it’s not worth the while of a mega-company,” said Oxford University Professor Adrian Hill.
The fact that a vaccine has not been created or produced may create an artificial need which will result in governments paying big bucks for pharmaceutical companies such as GSK to hurry their version of a vaccine. It will also “justify” fast-tracking the approval of experimental vaccines if the Ebola hysteria continues to grow.
People would be hard pressed to believe that there is a future without an Ebola vaccine just by reading the sales pitches on the media. “Ebola epidemic may not end without developing vaccine, scientist warns” says the UK Guardian. “New Ebola vaccine study has begun in Maryland” reports the USAToday.
Along with vaccines, health authorities and government agencies are also experimenting with anti-viral drugs. The company Fujifilm claims that it has 20,000 doses of a supposed influenza drug called Fabipiravir. This drug was allegedly used on a French nurse infected who was found to be infected with Ebola. With this, some people will be tempted to make a connection between flu vaccines and a cure against Ebola, which is something that has not been scientifically tested, much less proven.
As we reported earlier this month, a San Diego based bio pharmaceutical company called Mapp has manufactured a product called ZMapp, which supposedly contains man-made antibodies against Ebola. Seven patients who were under suspicion of being infected with Ebola have been treated with ZMapp. Although some of those patients survived the alleged Ebola infection there is no way to prove that their survival was directly related to receiving ZMapp. In fact, a Spanish priest and a Liberian health worker who received ZMapp ended up dead.