Private Profit Trumps Public Health in Research for Ebola Vaccine

Posted Oct. 22, 2014

MP3 Interview with Leigh Phillips, science writer and European Affairs reporter, conducted by Scott Harris


As the death toll from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa tops 4,500 including 236 health workers, the World Health Organization admitted that it failed to organize an effective response to the deadly virus. The international agency blamed factors ranging from internal politics to poor communication between infectious disease experts and officials at its U.N. headquarters. The WHO has projected that by Dec. 1, the number of new Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone would be 5,000 to 10,000 per week, making the 2014 outbreak of the disease the largest in world history.

In the U.S., President Barack Obama appointed a White House czar to organize the nation’s Ebola preparedness, as the spread of the disease has thus far been limited two nurses that treated Thomas Duncan who died of the virus in a Dallas hospital on Oct. 8. In advance of the U.S. mid-term elections on Nov. 4, a number of U.S. politicians have called for a ban on travel to and from the three West African nations where the Ebola outbreak is centered, this despite warnings from public health experts who warn that such restrictions would hamper efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

One important question about the international response to Ebola has largely been unaddressed: Why is it that the world doesn’t yet have an Ebola vaccine, despite the fact that this virus has been known to science since its emergence in South Sudan in 1976? Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Leigh Phillips, a widely published science writer, who examined this question in his article titled, "The Political Economy of Ebola," where he discusses the incompatibility between public health and private profit.

Read Leigh Phillips' article at "The Political Economy of Ebola," Jacobin, Aug. 13, 2014.

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