US funds additional year of Ebola vaccine manufacture

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Motortion)
(Image: Getty/Motortion)

Related tags Ebola Ebola vaccine Merck Johnson & johnson

The US HSS will provide funding to Merck for a year’s supply of its investigational Ebola vaccine for use in DR Congo to combat the repeated outbreaks of the virus.

The latest investment from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HSS) office amounts to $23m (€20m) to continue production of investigational Ebola vaccine, V920.

The vaccine was developed by Merck, known as MSD outside of the US and Canada, with additional support by the US’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). In total, BARDA has provided $176m to support the development and manufacture of V920.

With the latest investment, the US HSS confirmed that Merck will continue the production of the investigational vaccine ‘over the next year’. For its part, the office suggested that the investment holds value to ‘meet domestic biodefense goals’.

“The best way to protect people at home from Ebola is to stop the virus from spreading abroad, and effective vaccine is an essential tool in that effort,”​ said BARDA director, Rick Bright.

The vaccination efforts will focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has suffered from repeated outbreaks​ of the Ebola virus. As a result, Merck’s as-yet investigational vaccine has been administered to 192,000 individuals in the country.

According to the HSS, BARDA is working to support Merck to obtain US Food and Drug Administration approval for the vaccine.

BARDA was involved in the delivery of such vaccines, alongside the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, by engaging in the transportation of bulk vaccine materials from Merck’s facilities in Germany to a facility in Pennsylvania, US, for production of the vaccine.

Merck is not the only pharma company working on a vaccine for the virus, with Johnson & Johnson also having an investigational Ebola vaccine moving through clinical trials.

J&J has stockpiled 1.5 million doses of its vaccine, in case it should be necessary to also utilize a second vaccine in the country. However, the BBC reported​ there has been some controversy over the difficulties of utilizing a second vaccine, due to the different dosing schedules.

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