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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ebola vaccine verdict up to victims

    August 2014: In a crowded bank in Lagos, Nigeria, people stand in columns waiting to be attended to. To get into the hall, they underwent a baptism by fire. First, they had to stand in the heat of the sun to get their temperatures scanned. A slight abnormality in anyone’s temperature meant they would not be allowed in. Afterwards, they were required to cleanse their fingers with hand sanitizer. An ordinary banking transaction of 15 minutes had now turned into hours.

    A TV hangs from the bank’s wall, showing the world news from CNN International. Suddenly, a woman watching the news screams, “Ope oh,” or, “thank God.” Everyone’s attention follows her gaze, and immediately, the banking hall erupts in cheers and chatter, their joy predicated solely on the CNN broadcast that Dr. Kent Brantly had recovered from Ebola thanks to the experimental drug ZMapp.

    That, I imagine, was the atmosphere in most of West Africa upon receiving news that ZMapp had been successfully given to American and British Ebola survivors. Unfortunately, that joy has been heavily dampened by the news that these drugs will not be distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in West Africa until all clinical trials and procedures are complete.

    Between August and September, over 1,000 people have died from Ebola in West Africa. A new strain has emerged in the Congo, and Sierra Leone’s president has instituted a nationwide shutdown in the hopes of stalling the advance of the disease. Unfortunately, the people of that country now face starvation in addition to Ebola, according to Newsweek. Additionally, the economies of the affected nations have suffered because of the shutdown.

    This brings up the question of medical ethics. Is ethics inflexible? Where do we draw the line between medical conventions and reality?
    Reality is the thousands of people dying in West Africa from a disease that rivals the most creative imaginations of the “Resident Evil” producers.

    Convention is to keep vaccines from dying people on the ground when they have not been tested enough. The problem is, ZMapp has actually been used on real victims with positive results. Brantly and Nancy Writebol are living examples.

    Regardless, if one assumes that ZMapp had not been applied to real patients with the disease and was only suspected to be a potential treatment, do the sick people, who lie at the threshold of death from Ebola, not deserve the chance to choose if they are willing to try an unproven medication which may potentially save their lives? It may seem a simplistic argument, but it is a fact that death is a one-way street. Once dead, aside from a miracle of biblical proportions, one cannot be resurrected by a future drug that has passed every medical obstacle.
    It cannot be argued that the over 2,000 Ebola dead would have taken their chances with ZMapp or any other drug that showed potential to cure the disease, rather than surrender to the ignominy of a helpless death. As Liberia’s assistant health minister Tolbert Nyenswah said, “It is at the risk of the patient.”

    Rules are made for people and not people for rules. The test of a good law, convention, regulation or ordinance is that it is dynamic and flexible enough to be adapted to changing situations and scenarios.
    With Ebola, Western democracies face a medical emergency with serious foreign affairs implications, yet few people really understand the situation. Increased Western attention to it is a fairly recent matter; it was only with Brantly’s contraction of the virus that most began to understand the magnitude of the epidemic.

    Still, Africans from the countries worst hit by this outbreak will remember only that the death of thousands did not move the West until Western citizens began dying. They will also ponder why it took so long for a therapy — one that has shown great potential — to reach them, at the cost of some extra thousand lives. The treatment cannot be so complex that it requires whole new pharmaceutical processes. If pharmaceutical companies and the government wanted to administer the treatment, they could.

    Until the Food and Drug Administration approves the therapy, one might as well wish Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia good luck with figuring out how to hold on until then. It is in an atmosphere of fear, disease and death such as this one that radical groups can develop and acquire the power to commit acts of terrorism and overthrow governments.

    Increased and faster action is required in the meantime. It is for this reason that President Barack Obama’s announcement that 3,000 troops will be sent to Liberia is a good step forward. The missions that have worked and continue to work in affected nations remain a symbol to the world of how globalization also has a humanitarian face. These missionaries and aid workers are the true heroes of this outbreak, the true faces of angels that many affected by this outbreak will actually remember.

    Chikezie Anachu is an international trade and business law student. Follow him on Twitter @Don_Chikzy

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