Will Ebola continue to re-emerge?
Allitia Di Bernardo, EMEA Therapeutic Area Lead, CNS, IDV, and PAH, at Janssen
Since stepping into my role as EMEA Therapeutic Area Lead for Central Nervous System Disorders, Infectious Disease and Vaccines, and Pulmonary Artery Hypertension at Janssen, I have been gripped by the story of Ebola. As a relative newcomer to the space of infectious diseases, I have been struck by the urgent innovation taking place to counteract and prevent some of the world’s most life-threatening infections. When it comes to Ebola, recent advances have left me inspired and enthused to continue pushing forwards on our mission to develop preventive solutions for those who are most vulnerable to infectious diseases.
What we’ve seen so far
With multiple routes of transmission, including via animals,1 Ebola is a complex disease to predict and manage. There have been approximately 30 outbreaks since it was discovered in 1976,2 with an acceleration to an average of one a year for the past two decades.
From the devastating 2014–16 epidemic in West Africa to the second largest outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2018,3,4 continuous resurgences of Ebola have certainly provided the world’s healthcare industry with a wake-up call. The newest outbreak, declared in DRC just last month,5 further illustrates the need for effective prevention strategies and drives home the need for an agile approach as to how we combat these epidemics and stop them from happening in the first place.
We cannot be complacent when it comes to Ebola. That’s why numerous health bodies, local governments and pharmaceutical companies, among others, have worked together in partnership over the last few years to accelerate a solution – to help prevent renewed Ebola outbreaks in the future.
It fills me with pride to say that Janssen, in support of ongoing public health responses in the DRC and Rwanda, have also committed to donating up to 700,000 vaccine regimens,6,7 and so far over 50,000 people have received at least the first dose in the DRC and Rwanda.8 Along with improved testing and treatments, the availability of vaccines has helped to make a big difference to the way that at-risk communities, and the DRC has managed the current outbreak.9
What about the future?
While the world has two available vaccines, efforts to address, contain and prevent Ebola cannot stop. We are determined to continue our support by preparing at-risk nations for current and emerging epidemics. Our recent approval from the European Commission (EC) allows us to take another significant step forward in facilitating broader and faster distribution to people who need our vaccine most.
While the road ahead will be tough, through accelerated research and the help of valuable global partnerships, we can make huge progress. We are on the right track to stopping future epidemics - it’s now our duty to keep on providing the right tools to fight them.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Transmission. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/index.html. Last accessed July 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Years of Ebola Virus Disease Outbreaks. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/chronology.html. Last accessed July 2020.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014-2016 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. March 8, 2019. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/2014-2016-outbreak/index.html. Last accessed July 2020.
- World Health Organization. 2020. Ebola Health Update. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/ebola/drc-2019. Last accessed July 2020.
- World Health Organization. Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 2020. Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/ebola/ebola-health-update---%C3%A9quateur-province-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-2020 Last accessed July 2020.
- Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson Announces Donation of up to 500,000 Regimens of Janssen’s Investigational Ebola Vaccine to Support Outbreak Response in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). October 31, 2019. Available at: https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-announces-donation-of-up-to-500-000-regimens-of-janssens-investigational-ebola-vaccine-to-support-outbreak-response-in-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-drc. Last accessed July 2020.
- Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson Announces Commitment to Support Republic of Rwanda’s Preparedness Against Ebola Outbreak. Available at: https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-announces-commitment-to-support-republic-of-rwandas-preparedness-against-ebola-outbreak. Last accessed July 2020.
- Janssen Data on File. Ebola vaccine_ participants DRC Rwanda. July 2020.
- World Health Organization (WHO). Ebola then and now: Eight lessons from West Africa that were applied in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. April 10, 2020. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/ebola-then-and-now. Last accessed July 2020.