The Vaccine Alliance, Gavi and pharmaceutical company Merck reached an agreement that will enable Merck’s Ebola virus vaccine to be stockpiled against future outbreaks of the disease.
Under the agreement, announced on 20 January 2016 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Gavi committed US$5m to the development of Merck’s live attenuated Ebola Zaire vaccine — known as rVSV-EBOV — on the understanding that it will be licensed by the end of 2017. In addition, Merck will make available 300,000 doses of the vaccine from May 2016 for experimental and emergency use.
“The suffering caused by the Ebola crisis was a wake-up call to many in the global health community,” said Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi. “New threats require smart solutions and our innovative financing agreement with Merck will ensure that we are ahead of the curve for future Ebola outbreaks.”
Julie Gerberding, an executive vice president in global public policy and population health at Merck, said: “We are very pleased to join with Gavi in announcing this advance purchase commitment agreement to support the provision of [Merck]’s investigational monovalent Ebola Zaire vaccine – in case of a resurgence of the Ebola outbreak or a new outbreak.”
Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res’s (MSF) access campaign, welcomed the news, but sought clarification on important details. “MSF is keen to know if this advance purchase commitment will allow for the vaccine to be used in any country where a Zaire Ebola strain outbreak occurs,“ he said. “An outbreak in any country will require the rapid deployment of doses to prevent the spread of the disease and quick access is critical.”
MSF also wants to know how Gavi and Merck will set the price, especially in the long term, and wants confirmation that the final price will be close to the production cost.