American pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. has signed an agreement with Gavi, the world’s biggest funder of vaccines for developing countries, to submit its experimental Ebola vaccine for regulatory approval by the end of 2017, Bloomberg reports.
Gavi, which brings together funds from governments, companies, United Nations agencies and philanthropic groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, committed $5 million to the development of the vaccine in an agreement announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Merck will also ensure that 300,000 vaccine doses are available starting in May for use in clinical trials and emergencies.
Merck has submitted an application to the World Health Organization to ensure use of the vaccine in an emergency. The WHO on Jan. 14 said that no new Ebola cases had been reported in the three worst affected West African countries in the preceding 42 days, signaling an end to the most recent outbreak. Just a day later, Sierra Leone confirmed an Ebola-related death, Bloomberg says.
“The fact that we know the reservoirs of Ebola still exist underlines why we must learn lessons from the devastating impact of the crisis and ensure we are better prepared for infectious disease outbreaks," Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of Gavi, said in the statement. "The world is still worryingly under-prepared for potential future health threats."
In July, a study published in the Lancet medical journal reported that Merck’s vaccine was 100 percent effective when it was tested on more than 4,000 people who were in close contact with Ebola patients in Guinea.