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We have just witnessed the largest and most devastating outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which highlighted the urgent need for development of an efficacious vaccine that could be used to curtail future outbreaks. Prior to 2014, there had been limited impetus worldwide to develop a vaccine since the virus was first discovered in 1976. Though too many lives were lost during this outbreak, it resulted in the significantly accelerated clinical development of a number of candidate vaccines through an extraordinary collaborative global effort coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and involving a number of companies, trial centres, funders, global stakeholders and agencies. We have acquired substantial safety and immunogenicity data on a number of vaccines in Caucasian and African populations. The rapid pace of events led to the initiation of the landmark efficacy trial testing the rVSV-vectored vaccine, which showed high level efficacy in an outbreak setting when deployed using an innovative ring vaccination strategy. Though the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) declared by the WHO has now been lifted, the global scientific community faces numerous challenges ahead to ensure that there is a licensed, deployable vaccine available for use in future outbreaks for at least the Zaire and Sudan strains of Ebola virus. There remain several unanswered questions on the durability of protection, mechanistic immunological correlates and preferred deployment strategies. This review outlines a brief history of the development of Ebola vaccines, the significant progress made since the scale of the outbreak became apparent, some lessons learnt and how they could shape future development of vaccines and the management of similar outbreaks.

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Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford OX3 7DQ, United Kingdom. Electronic address: