- The global vaccines alliance Gavi on Wednesday announced it had committed to a $5 million prepurchase of Merck's developmental Ebola vaccine.
- Merck's VSV-ZEBOV live attenuated Ebola Zaire vaccine is currently in development and the agreement is based on an understanding the drug company will submit the vaccine for regulatory approval in 2017.
- Merck also promised to keep 300,000 doses of the vaccine available from May 2016 on for emergency or clinical trial use.
Merck has already submitted its vaccine for approval through the World Health Organization's Emergency Use Assessment and Listing (EUAL) procedure, which would allow the vaccine to be used in emergency situations even before it became licensed.
The vaccine was tested in a clinical trial in Guinea on 4,000 people with exposure to confirmed Ebola cases. It demonstrated complete protection within ten days of the vaccine being administered, according to Reuters.
On January 14th, the WHO declared Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to be at zero new cases of Ebola (marked by the standard 42 days without a new case, or two incubation cycles). However, within a few hours of that announcement, Sierra Leone officials unfortunately confirmed the infection of a woman, along with the potential exposure of more than 20 others.
In its initial declaration, the WHO cautioned against the risk of future flare-ups in the previously affected West African countries. The announcement by Gavi and Merck at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, gives hope that future first responders will have access to better tools to combat any outbreak.
"The suffering caused by the Ebola crisis was a wake-up call to many in the global health community," said Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi. "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."