The world’s first Ebola vaccine has been approved, a critical move that opens the door for its use in African countries at high risk for the infectious disease.
The drug called, Ervebo and manufactured by MERCK pharmaceuticals had until now been used in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, as an experimental vaccine to the latest outbreak in the country’s east.
The global health outfit said there is sufficient evidence that shows that the vaccine is effective. Ervebo effectively becomes the world’s first ever drug aimed at prevention of Ebola.
According to standards, a WHO prequalification is granted to a trial medication only after a drug passes important safety and efficacy tests.
Experts have hailed the development as a crucial step that will accelerate access to and deployment in countries most exposed to Ebola epidemics.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, called the approval “a historic step” toward making sure people who need the vaccine most have access to it.
“Five years ago, we had no vaccine and no therapeutics for Ebola,” he said in a statement. “With a pre-qualified vaccine and experimental therapeutics, Ebola is now preventable and treatable.”
Ebola, which is spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person, is rare, but frequently fatal. Death rates among those who contract Ebola range from 25% to 90%, according to the World Health Organization.
Since the beginning of the epidemic in the DRC, which has killed some 2,190 out of more than 3,290 cases, over 236,000 people have been vaccinated with the first vaccine, according to WHO, including 60,000 health professionals.
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A second experimental vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, which requires two doses, is expected to be deployed in the city of Goma soon, according to Congolese health officials.