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Updated Feb 21, 2020

American pharmaceutical company Merck has developed a vaccine against Ebola named Ervebo, which can now be produced and distributed to regions that are at high risk of an Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organization certified Ervebo in November 2019 as having met the international body’s standards for quality, safety, and efficacy. As of February 17, four African countries have approved the stockpiling and administration of the Ervebo vaccine, namely Ghana, Burundi, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The DRC has been struggling with an Ebola epidemic since August 2018. The first experiments with the vaccine began in 2015, near the end of the West African Ebola epidemic, and the vaccine was later administered in the DRC. About 290,000 individuals have been inoculated with Ervebo as part of the extended trial, which required clear consent from those vaccinated and continual monitoring for several weeks after the initial injection.

The World Health Organization led this vaccine trial in collaboration with the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, an informal capacity-building platform involving national regulatory authorities and ethics committees; the European Medicines Agency; and Merck. The trial helps to open the way for stockpiling the Ebola vaccine, as is done with the yellow fever and meningitis vaccines. Preliminary results indicate that Ervebo has a 97.5 percent prevention rate efficiency and helps to minimize chances of death for those already infected, according to a WHO communiqué. Notably, this vaccine targets only the Zairean strain of the Ebola virus; there are other strains for which other vaccines will have to be developed.

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