Of all the reactions in Central Asia to Ebola in the last few months, by far the most curious is the claim by Kazakh scientists that they plan to develop their own vaccine for the disease.
The Ebola virus has been widely discussed across the region even though West Africa, where the outbreak began, is thousands of miles away. Security-focussed Uzbekistan has taken no chances, banning sportsmen from five West African countries from coming for international sport events and installing testing equipment, including thermal cameras, in all its airports. Kyrgyzstan has also updated its airport, while in Tajikistan, news of the virus has led to a slump in trade for banana sellers as alarmist SMS messages warn that the fruit can carry the disease. This is despite the fact that scientists have said the risk of Ebola infection through most types of food is impossible and none of Tajikistan's bananas are sourced from West Africa, according to the country's Customs Service.
In light of all that paranoia, the claims made by scientists in Kazakhstan that the country can quickly develop a vaccine for the Ebola disease might be seen as an example of positive thinking, but Kazakh netizens have torn the boasts to pieces.
The Central Asian country is not known for being at the forefront of medical science and its system of public health, while better than others in the region, still faces a number of critical challenges.
Nevertheless, General Director of the Kazakh Research Institute of Biological Security, Abylai Sansyzbai was confident that in spite of not having a biosafety level four laboratory stipulated as necessary by the World Health Organization to even begin working with the virus, his team could develop a vaccine.
Если мы от ВОЗ получим новый штамм Эболы, мы можем у себя потихоньку начать работу в лаборатории третьего уровня безопасности. Для этого должна приехать комиссия, рассмотреть условия
If the World Health Organisation gives us new samples of Ebola, we can steadily start work [on a vaccine] in a biosafety level three laboratory. A commission should come and see our facilities.
Irony overflowed on Tengrinews.kz, where the article appeared:
Видимо директор не знает о гибели наших граждан от неправильного диагноза в наших больницах!!!! Может сначала научиться там, а потом эбола….
It seems like the director [of the research institute] does not know that some of our citizens die in local hospitals from incorrect diagnoses!!!! Perhaps it is better to deal with those issues first and then think of Ebola…
Another netizen, Kot-kotik, commented:
ВОЗ, умоляю, – не давайте нашим псевдоучённым штамм Эбола!!!! Они то то с “сонной болезнью” в Калачах разобраться не могут, это как детям – нельзя давать опасные игрушки!
World Health Organization, I beg you, don't give a strain of the Ebola virus to our pseudo-scientists!!!! They cannot even deal with “sleepy sickness” in Kalachi [Kazakh village]; it is like children that should not be given dangerous toys.
Tauly was one of the few users that shared Sansyzbai's confidence:
Не надо ребята. это не шутки, этому институту более 80 лет.Поэтомувполне возможно создание.Самый сильный институт Снг или может в мире.поэтому я верю
Guys, don't be so harsh. This is not a joke. This institute is 80 years old; therefore, it is quite achievable. It is the strongest research institute in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], and maybe in the world. I believe in it.
Albina was less convinced:
От этой новости я чуть со смеху не умерла,не дожидаясь эболы. Наши. Могут. Создать. Вакцину.??? Что за брееееед.
I was about to die when reading this news and not from Ebola, either. Our. Scientists. Can. Create. a Vaccine? What is this nonsense?