There’s big news this week in the fight against infectious disease: the world now has an approved Ebola vaccine.
It is the first vaccine of its kind to be approved for quality, safety, and effectiveness by the World Health Organization, paving the way for it to be made available wherever Ebola is a threat.
WHO prequalifies #Ebola vaccine, paving the way for its use in high-risk countries. #VaccinesWork pic.twitter.com/FI8BZDtvCS
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 12, 2019
The vaccine, known as Ervebo, has already been used to protect more than 250,000 people in trials and has proved effective after a single dose. Now that it has WHO approval, it can it be used more widely to control outbreaks and can be given to those who have come in contact with Ebola, which has a death rate of up to 90%.
Why this vaccine is so important
This vaccine has major implications for efforts to fight Ebola, which is highly contagious and very deadly. An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has cost more than 2,000 lives since 2018.
Prior to the current outbreak in the DRC, the last major outbreak of Ebola occurred from March 2014 to June 2016, starting in Guinea and ultimately spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. That outbreak infected more than 28,600 people and killed more than 11,000.
The Ervebo vaccine will help prevent this dramatic spread of disease and experts hope it could make outbreaks of Ebola a thing of the past. The vaccine can be used in the middle of an outbreak to protect those who have come in contact directly or indirectly with Ebola — including health workers on the frontlines of fighting this outbreak and saving lives.
Prequalification of the vaccine paves the way for it to be produced and distributed in at-risk countries. And thanks to institutions like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the vaccine will be made available to the people who need it most right now.
Gavi — a partnership that has supported the immunisation of 700 million children and saved more than 10 million lives since its founding in 2000 — has been helping to distribute and stockpile the vaccine since 2016. Following the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, Gavi made a commitment to buy doses of the vaccine when it became licensed — which is exactly what happened this week.
That stockpile of doses is already being used in DRC and neighbouring countries in trials and has proven highly effective at preventing infection. Its use will now be expanded, saving thousands of lives and supporting health workers in their efforts to contain this outbreak.
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