Research funds can be spent with more efficiency
Millions of people worldwide, but primarily in West Africa, received a Christmas present from Canada last week. It came in the form of a vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus.
When Ebola pops into the news every few years, it makes big headlines. It is in the class of diseases known as hemorrhagic fevers, and the fatality rate among those who catch it is very high.
Ebola is endemic to West Africa, where outbreaks can claim hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives. Modern transportation makes it a global threat.
World Health Organization officials announced the new vaccine, developed in Canada and licensed to Merck & Co. in the United States, has proven very effective in extensive testing. If used appropriately, it could virtually eliminate a major public health concern.
So, one down and who knows how many to go.
That assessment is not a flippant one. Scientists know of several other hemorrhagic fevers for which there is no vaccine and no very effective treatment. Victory over Ebola — if the new vaccine is that — is just a first step.
Research aimed at “emerging” diseases such as Ebola consumes billions of dollars a year in private and taxpayers’ dollars. But for years, the work has not been coordinated very well on a global basis.
Making that happen should be one of President-elect Donald Trump’s priorities. Because of our financial and scientific resources, the United States is the acknowledged world leader in health care research. Coordinating our efforts better with other countries could produce more, much needed, advances.