Ghana and three other African countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia – have licensed and can now distribute an Ebola vaccine, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has hailed as a “milestone”.
Preliminary study results indicate the Ervebo vaccine, manufactured by Merck, has a 97.5% efficacy rate. Data also suggests that vaccinating people who are already infected reduces their chances of dying.
DR Congo is currently battling an Ebola outbreak which has killed 2,249 people since August 2018.
“The approval of the Ebola vaccine by these countries is another milestone in the fight against this unforgiving disease,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Africa has rallied to cement hard-fought progress to keep its people safe from Ebola,” he added.
WHO accelerated the licensing and roll-out of the Ebola vaccine by certifying that it met the organization’s standards for quality, safety and efficacy in its fastest vaccine prequalification process ever, announced in November 2019.
The speed with which this has been achieved has been made possible by a different approach, where national licensing procedures were done in parallel based on one single scientific review process. Usually, these processes are done one by one, which can take years. The process was led by WHO with the participation of the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum (an African network of national regulatory authorities and ethics committees), the European Medicines Agency, and Merck.
“The rapid approval of the Ebola vaccine by countries in the Africa Region helps ensure this critical prevention tool will be available when and where it is needed most,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This kind of collaboration and innovation is a model for other health priorities.”