WHO, UNICEF, MSF, IFRC collaborate to establish global Ebola vaccine stockpile

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2021

The four leading international health and humanitarian organisations announced on Monday the establishment of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile to ensure outbreak response.

The effort to establish the stockpile 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.

According to WHO’s official release, the stockpile will allow countries, with the support of humanitarian organisations, to contain future Ebola epidemics by ensuring timely access to vaccines for populations at risk, during outbreaks.

The injectable single-dose Ebola vaccine (rVSV∆G-ZEBOV-GP, live) is manufactured by Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) Corp. and developed with financial support from the US government.

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 3,50,000 people in Guinea and in the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, under a protocol for “compassionate use”, WHO said in its release.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement: “The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the incredible power vaccines have to save lives from deadly viruses.”

He added: “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable. This new stockpile is an excellent example of solidarity, science and cooperation between international organisations and the private sector, to save lives.”

UNICEF manages the stockpile on behalf of the ICG, which will be the decision-making body for its allocation and release. The stockpile is stored in Switzerland and ready to be shipped to countries in case of an emergency response.

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

“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive-Director.

“We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key. This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement - one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most, as quickly as possible,” Fore added.

Meanwhile, 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.

The multilateral organisations have speculated that it could take two to three years to reach the SAGE-recommended level of 500,000 doses of the emergency stockpile of Ebola vaccines. WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, and vaccine manufacturers constantly assess options to increase vaccine supply should global demand increase.

Published on January 12, 2021

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