The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) has signed a $5m (£3.5m) deal to buy Ebola vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical company, Merck.
The advanced purchase of the Ebola vaccine will see GAVI having a global stock of 300,000 vaccines after taking the experimental Ebola vaccine through the late stage clinical trials to licensing and pre-qualification by the World Health Organisation (WHO) by next year.
If approved, the vaccine, VSV-Zebov (vesicular stomatitis virus-Zaire Ebola virus vaccine), would become one of the world’s first licensed Ebola vaccines, with GAVI having the stock to protect against future outbreaks.
GAVI made the purchase announcement in a statement issued at the World Economic Forum in Davos in the Swiss Alps.
Chief Executive of GAVI, Dr Seth Berkley, said the suffering caused by the Ebola crisis was a wake-up call to many in the global health community.
“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,” he said.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust Medical Research Charity, which co-funded clinical trials of the Merck vaccine, said VSV-Zebov had shown “remarkable results” and was one of the “few positive outcomes” to emerge from the epidemic.
“As we saw with the new confirmed case just last week, the Ebola epidemic is likely to have a long tail and it’s possible that several more isolated cases will emerge in the coming weeks and months.
This vaccine, therefore, could still play an important role in containing any additional flare-ups of this outbreak, as well as being available to help prevent future epidemics,” he said.
The World Health Organisation declared West Africa Ebola-free last week, after all the affected countries had gone 42 days without recording an Ebola case.
However, a few hours after, Sierra Leone confirmed a death from Ebola virus.
Ebola swept through three countries in West Africa last year, killing more than 11,300 people and infecting more than 28,600.
The outbreak, recorded as the largest in history, has led to an unprecedented push on vaccines.
Merck has led trials of the VSV-Zebov vaccine which combines a fragment of the Ebola virus with another safer virus in order to train the immune system to beat Ebola.
Early evidence from studies in West Africa suggests it may give 100% protection, although more data is still being collected.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri