LOS ANGELES (November 13, 2019) After more than four years of testing and vaccinations under compassionate use protocols, the most effective Ebola vaccine has at last received World Health Organization (WHO) pre-qualification, clearing regulatory hurdles for its wide-scale use.
“AHF has been calling for an approved vaccine for more than a year—even before the current outbreak in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) began last August. We’re glad the WHO has finally pre-qualified it—unfortunately, this is bittersweet because it has taken entirely too long given the devastation that Ebola brings and the clear evidence of the vaccine’s efficacy,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Now we urge the US FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to also approve the vaccine so that sufficient quantities can be produced and stockpiled—especially in areas where outbreaks are more likely to occur so they can be accessed quickly when needed.”
The success of the first trial for the Merck Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, was first reported in the Lancet in July 2015. Since then, it has shown to be over 97% effective and fast-acting, with immunity just 10 days after an individual is vaccinated.
The WHO pre-qualification comes on the heels of vaccine’s approval by the European Commission, which makes it the first officially approved Ebola vaccine in the world.
“Whether it’s the ongoing outbreak in the DRC or the next Ebola hotspot in the future—we have definitely not seen the end of this virus,” added Weinstein. “If this approval process has taught us anything, it’s that we’re not prepared for infectious disease outbreaks of this magnitude. We urge the global public health community to seize this opportunity and reevaluate the inadequate practices and procedures that, ultimately, put the entire world at risk with unnecessary delays and runaway bureaucracy.”
Even though the current outbreak in the DRC is showing early signs of slowing, contact tracing and containment are now more difficult since the virus has moved to less populated, rural areas and violence and insecurity continues throughout the affected region.
As of November 13, nearly 3,300 Ebola cases in the DRC have resulted in 2,192 deaths.