EU approves Ebola vaccine for commercial use

Since the start of the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, over 236,000 people have been given vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV-GP, including over 60,000 health workers. Now, the EU has authorised the marketing and commercial use of the vaccine.

The European Commission announced this week that, after being trialled by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), its manufacturer, pharmaceutical giant Merck, would be able to bring the drug, known as “Ervebo”, to market.

So far, the vaccine has helped to stem the second most deadly outbreak of Ebola, which has claimed over 11,000 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2013 and 2016 and over 2000 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Previously, the World Health Organisation welcomed Ervebo, describing it as a “major milestone” that could save many lives. And while, at the moment, the vaccine is only being used under exceptional procedure and in emergency cases, such as with health workers, it can now be rolled out to the public.

As part of the approval process, the vaccine was tested in clinical studies on 16,000 patients from the US, Europe, and Africa. More details are currently being collected from the study; and in addition to this, vaccines from other manufacturers are due to be tested in the near future.

For example, earlier this month, medical officials said a second vaccine was being introduced: Ad26-ZEBOV-GP. This version is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and it’s predicted it will be introduced by the end of the month. Another eight vaccines are currently undergoing tests.

In a statement, EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis noted: “Finding a vaccine as soon as possible against this terrible virus has been a priority for the international community ever since Ebola hit West Africa five years ago. Today’s decision is therefore a major step forward in saving lives in Africa and beyond.”

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