Ebola has infected and killed thousands long before the 2014 outbreak. About 431 people died in the first record outbreak in 1976. More than 30 years and 3,091 deaths later, a vaccine is now in the development stages.
African nations including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and more have been infected over the past nine months. But who gets the first cure? The Americans, of course.
It makes sense for American physicians to first test their potential vaccines on American patients. It prevents international liability and conflict between the United States and these nations. Diplomacy is everything in a region plagued by social conflicts.
But what about human rights and access to essential liberties that our nation promises?
The BBC reported that vaccines will be tested on humans in coming weeks in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Africa. Testing on macaques proved that the cure works best in two doses, which can prevent Ebola spread for 10 months or longer. African patients will not see the vaccine until November or later.
By November, more will have died.
It’s understandable that it takes time to develop a cure to disease. Scientists need time to research and funding has to be raised. But why is it that it takes up 30 years for a cure to be discussed? Why does medicine wait until utter fatality to respond to loss of life?
Vox Media broke down reasons why Ebola spiraled out of control: poor literacy rates, failure of human rights campaigns to respond in time, poor economies, and more. But what stood out was a quote from a Georgetown university professor.
“There was no mobilization,” Lawrence Gostin said. “The World Health Organization didn’t call a public health emergency until August — five months after the first international spread.”
Gostin noted that Ebola is a very preventable disease and the past 20 outbreaks were reasonably contained. Cuts to the budget for the World Health Organization undermined what would have been efforts to address Ebola.
The victims, aside from the citizens of the African nations, are typically world travelers. As a result, a handful of members of the international community. The United States became involved when their own two citizens contracted Ebola and flew them back home to receive a potential vaccine.
It’s a shame that when it comes to human life, little matters more than the potential gains for a nation. We go to war for oil, not human life. We create vaccines, but take our time unless our own people are in jeopardy. Perhaps we live in the land of the free, but a land that lacks the humanity to give a damn.