The International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision is creating a global stockpile of the single-dose Merck and Sharp & Dohme Corp. Ebola vaccine to guarantee response capabilities for any outbreak, with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The stockpile was deemed necessary as there is no natural market for an Ebola vaccine, given the sporadic nature of Ebola outbreaks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us of the incredible power of vaccines to save lives from deadly viruses,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said. “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable. This new stockpile is an excellent example of solidarity, science, and cooperation between international organizations and the private sector to save lives.”
The ICG is an international coalition that includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The single-dose Ebola vaccine they will utilize has already been prequalified by WHO and licensed by the European Medicines Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and eight African countries.
The vaccine is recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization for use in Ebola outbreaks, particularly when paired with other response efforts. It targets the Zaire ebolavirus species, specifically. Its efficacy has already been demonstrated by administered doses to 350,000 people in Guinea and throughout the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Going forward, the stockpile will be stored in Switzerland, from which it can be shipped to countries for emergency response. UNICEF will manage the stockpile. Any decision to disperse the vaccine will have to be made within 48 hours of receiving a country’s request. Any deployments will be coupled with ultra-cold chain packaging by the manufacturer for shipment. The ICG intends for the whole process to have a turnaround delivery time of seven days.
An initial 6,890 doses have been made available for outbreak response, but more will be delivered into the stockpile throughout 2021 and beyond. Eventually, the ICG hopes to reach 500,000 doses available for deployment.
“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said. “We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key. This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement – one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most as quickly as possible.”