World Immunization Week is marked each year during the last week of April. Many researchers within the Nuffield Department of Medicine are working on life-saving vaccines for a variety of serious illnesses, ranging from HIV to malaria, or improving existing vaccines to make them more effective. To mark WHO Immunization Week NDM spoke to two scientists about their research.
The last week of April each year is the World Health Organisation Immunization Week. Clinical trials are an essential part of vaccine development and The Jenner Institute has been involved in a fast-tracked Ebola Phase I clinical trial in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
NDM spoke to Dr Katie Ewer, a Senior Immunologist involved in this trial, about the need for an Ebola vaccine and what the next steps are.
Q: Why is there currently no licensed vaccine for Ebola?
Katie Ewer: Until the recent outbreak, cases of Ebola were relatively rare compared to diseases such as malaria, which kills over 600,000 people each year. In comparison the current Ebola outbreak has killed around 23,000 people. Although Ebola is a highly fatal disease, as it isn’t very common it had not been seen as a priority for vaccine developers.
Q: How does a vaccine work?
Simon Draper: A vaccine relies on the remarkable ability of the immune system to recognise what it has seen before – we call this process immunological memory. A vaccine is a bit like a photograph – when the vaccine is injected in to the body it provides a picture of the pathogen. It forewarns the body of something that is bad so if that pathogen is then encountered in the future the immune system will remember it and can respond to it appropriately.