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HHS Funding Backs Additional Year of Ebola Vaccine Manufacturing

AUG 26, 2019 | MICHAELA FLEMING
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced financial support to continue the manufacturing of the investigational Ebola vaccine from Merck & Co for another year.

According to a statement, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is a component of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, will contribute $23 million to Merck for production of the vaccine over the next 12 months.

Additionally, BARDA will be working with Merck on the development of the experimental Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, including assistance towards obtaining licensure by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“The best way to protect people at home from Ebola is to stop the virus from spreading abroad, and effective vaccine is an essential tool in that effort,” BARDA Director Rick Bright, PhD, said in the statement issued by HHS. “By ensuring that investigational vaccines continue to be available, we aid the global response and, simultaneously, help improve domestic preparedness.”

With the new funding, BARDA will have provided approximately $176 million to support the development of this investigational vaccine, which is the only investigational vaccine that is authorized for use in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As of August 16, 2019, more than 192,000 individuals have been vaccinated through compassionate use. Thus far, the vaccine has been shown to be effective in protecting people against Ebola.

The press release also reveals that under an interagency agreement between BARDA and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, BARDA provided funding for the US Department of Defense to transport vaccine materials in bulk from Merck’s facilities in Germany to a facility in Pennsylvania to produce additional doses.

In addition to working with Merck and other companies on Ebola vaccine development, BARDA is also collaborating with federal and private sector partners to develop tests and therapeutics to diagnose and treat Ebola virus disease.

As of August 21, 2019, there have been 2829 confirmed cases of Ebola in the DRC outbreak with 1871 confirmed deaths reported. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, PhD, director-general of the World Health Organization on July 17, 2019.

Gaps in funding have been a consistent challenge throughout this outbreak as response activities have been limited due to financial constraints.

“Despite previous recommendations for increased resources, the global community has not contributed sustainable and adequate technical assistance, human or financial resources for outbreak response,” the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease said in a statement issued following the declaration of the PHEIC.

According to the WHO’s latest Strategic Response Plan for the control of the outbreak, approximately $287 million is required to sustain the outbreak response. As of August 14, 2019, $15,335,450 had been received by the WHO.
 
“Despite recent announcements of new contributions, WHO’s operations are impacted by a lack of cash flow. The funding shortfall is immediate and critical,” the agency said on its website.

For the most recent case counts in the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, check out the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.
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