Back in July a vaccine for Ebola was shown to provide 100 percent protection in a clinical trial. The test was on a small population, and only addressed short term protection. But if deployed widely, the vaccine could be a very useful tool in containing a major outbreak.
But vaccines aren’t cheap, and ensuring that they are viable and produced in quantity takes time and money. For better or worse, vaccines for major contagious diseases in Africa aren’t considered lucrative, but there are organizations trying to overcome that obstacle.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has taken a step to make it easier to have a major vaccine response available for the next Ebola outbreak. Nature is reporting that Gavi has paid Merck, the manufacturer of this vaccine, $5 million to have 300,000 doses of the vaccine ready for use by May 2016. The virus could be used for clinical trials, or possibly for the next Ebola outbreak, should it happen prior to Merck having the vaccine licensed. Merck has promised to have the vaccine licensed by the end of 2017, and to obtain emergency approval from the World Health Organization to use the vaccine in an outbreak prior to licensure. That process is already underway.
Gavi is a public-private partnership combining the contributions of several governments, companies and foundations to develop and stockpile vaccines for future outbreaks. Once this particular Ebola vaccine is licensed, Gavi will develop stockpiles for use, and distributing the vaccines should be much easier.