Vaccine alliance to create Ebola vaccine stockpile

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Charity alliance Gavi said yesterday it would create a stockpile of 500,000 Ebola vaccines that low-income countries will be able to access for free as they attempt to battle outbreaks of the deadly virus.

“This is a historic milestone in humanity’s fight against this horrific disease,” Gavi Chairwoman Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a statement announcing the USD178 million funding for the stockpile, which will be disbursed between now and 2025.

The stockpiling would start with rVSV-ZEBOV, which is manufactured by the United States (US) laboratory Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) and was licensed by the European Commission last month.

“Any of the vaccine manufacturers are free to approach us. For a stockpile, that would only be licensed and WHO (World health Organization) pre-qualified vaccines,” Gavi chief executive Seth Berkley told reporters in a dial-in press conference after a two-day meeting of the alliance’s board in New Delhi.

“At the moment only Merck has met those two criteria. And if J&J (Johnson & Johnson’s anti-Ebola vaccine) was to meet those criteria as well, we would consider those vaccines as well.”

The alliance said it would also support preventive vaccination among high-risk populations, such as health workers.

The WHO prequalification programme is meant to cut costs by setting a minimum quality standard for cheaper drugs that could then be used by developing countries.