Global stockpile of Ebola vaccine created to tackle future outbreaks

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2021

A file picture of a health worker filling a syringe with Ebola vaccine before injecting it to a patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo   -  Reuters

Will be based in Switzerland

Four international health and humanitarian organisations have come together to establish a global Ebola vaccine stockpile to ensure a quick repose to an outbreak.

The injectable single-dose Ebola vaccine is manufactured by Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) Corp and developed with financial support from the US government. The stockpile will be based in Switzerland.

The effort was led by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a joint note said. The European Medicines Agency licensed the Ebola vaccine in November 2019, and the vaccine is now pre-qualified by WHO, and licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration as well as in eight African countries.

Before achieving licensure, the vaccine was administered to more than 350,000 people in Guinea and in the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo under a protocol for “compassionate use”, the note said.

The vaccine is recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization for use in Ebola outbreaks as part of a broader set of Ebola outbreak response tools and protects against the Zaire ebolavirus species which is commonly known to cause outbreaks.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said, “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable.”

Managing the stockpile

UNICEF manages the stockpile on behalf of the ICG which, as with stockpiles of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines, will be the decision-making body for its allocation and release. Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said, “We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key.”

The decision to allocate the vaccine will be made within 48 hours of receiving a request from a country; vaccines will be made available together with ultra-cold chain packaging by the manufacturer for shipment to countries within 48 hours of the decision. The targeted overall delivery time from the stockpile to countries is seven days, the organisations said.

As Ebola outbreaks are relatively rare and unpredictable, there is no natural market for the vaccine. Vaccines are only secured through the establishment of the stockpile and are available in limited quantities. The Ebola vaccine is reserved for outbreak response to protect people at the highest risk of contracting Ebola – including healthcare and frontline workers, the note said.

“Over the past decade alone we have seen Ebola devastate communities in West and Central Africa, always hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest,” said IFRC Secretary-General, Jagan Chapagain. “Through each outbreak, our volunteers have risked their lives to save lives.”

An initial 6,890 doses are now available for outbreak response with further quantities to be delivered into the stockpile this month and throughout 2021 and beyond. Depending on the rate of vaccine deployment, it could take 2 to 3 years to reach the SAGE-recommended level of 500,000 doses for the emergency stockpile of Ebola vaccines, the note said.


Published on January 12, 2021

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