More reports on: Pharmaceuticals, World Health Organisation

Merck gets a $5-mn Ebola vaccine shot from Vaccine Alliance

22 January 2016

With the fresh outbreak of Ebola in West Africa the World Health Organisation (WHO) has brokered a $5 million deal between the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) and US drug maker Merck, to ensure that a vaccine is available to fight future occurrences.

Gavi on Wednesday announced that it has paid $5 million to Merck & Co, the manufacturer of the first Ebola vaccine that was shown to protect against the virus in a human clinical trial.

The vaccine is yet to be licensed by any drug regulator and, Gavi said, the agreement would help the US drugmaker take the experimental Ebola vaccine through late-stage clinical trials to licensing and pre-qualification by WHO.

If approved, Merck's so-called VSV-ZEBOV live attenuated Ebola Zaire vaccine would become one of the world's first licensed Ebola shots and Gavi would be able to start buying it to create a stockpile for future outbreaks, it said in a statement issued at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

An Ebola epidemic, which swept through three West African countries last year, killed more than 11,300 people and infected more than 28,600.

"The suffering caused by the Ebola crisis was a wake-up call to many in the global health community," said Gavi's chief executive Seth Berkley.

"New threats require smart solutions and our innovative financing agreement with Merck will ensure that we are ahead of the curve for future Ebola outbreaks."

The deal was agreed on the understanding that the vaccine will be submitted for a licence by the end of 2017.

As part of the agreement, Merck will ensure that 300,000 doses of the vaccine are available from May 2016 to be used in expanded use clinical trials as well as for emergency use as needed while development work on the shot continues.

Initial results from a clinical trial of the vaccine in Guinea, where it was tested on some 4,000 people who had been in close contact with a confirmed Ebola case, showed complete protection after 10 days.

Merck says it has already submitted an application through WHO's Emergency Use Assessment and Listing (EUAL) procedure which, if approved, would allow for the vaccine to be used if there is another Ebola emergency before it is licensed.

The WHO, meanwhile, announced last week that no new Ebola cases had been reported in the three worst affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the preceding 42 days.

Yet, shortly after the WHO announcement - which included a warning that sporadic flare-ups could occur - Sierra Leone reported an Ebola-related death.

More than 100 people have been quarantined after Sierra Leone Ebola death.

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