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Agreement to produce an Ebola vaccine

Campaign to prevent Ebola in Liberia, West Africa

UNMIL / Emmanuel Tobey Campaign to prevent Ebola in Liberia, West AfricaUNMIL / Emmanuel Tobey

In January 2016, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) announced that it paid US$5 million to Merck, the company that manufactured the first Ebola vaccine that has reportedly demonstrated acceptable levels of effectiveness in preliminary testing in humans. This is the first purchase agreement between a public health organization and a pharmaceutical company before a vaccine has been licensed for widespread use in humans. The purpose of the agreement is to have the vaccine ready for use in case of another outbreak. Merck agreed to maintain a stock of at least 300,000 doses by March 2016 and to work to complete testing and obtain approval from the regulatory agencies by 2017. The re-emergence of Ebola in Sierra Leone on January 15, 2016—just one month after the World Health Organization announced that the virus had been contained in West Africa—explains why it is necessary to keep a stock of the vaccine on hand. Three companies, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline, are keeping an inventory of roughly two million doses of the three vaccine candidates. More than 20,000 individuals have been immunized with these products. Although none of the three vaccine candidates have been submitted to the U.S. or European regulatory agencies for approval, Sierra Leone and Guinea have made agreements with the pharmaceutical companies to evaluate the safety of the vaccines in clinical testing.