By Oluwafunke Ishola
Three months after the World Health Organization (WHO) pre-qualified the use of Ebola vaccines, four African countries have licensed the vaccine for use in their countries.
A statement on Saturday from the WHO website, named the countries as : Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Ghana and Zambia.
The statement said registration of the vaccine is expected in additional countries in the coming weeks.
It said that the licensing of the vaccine meant that the manufacturer would stockpile and widely distribute the vaccine to African countries at risk of Ebola outbreak.
According to the statement, once licensed doses are available, use of the vaccine will not require clinical trial or other research protocols.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said, “The approval of the Ebola vaccine by these countries is another milestone in the fight against this unforgiving disease.
“Africa has rallied to cement hard-fought progress to keep its people safe from Ebola.”
He said that WHO accelerated the licensing and roll-out of the Ebola vaccine by certifying that it met the organisation’s standards for quality, safety and efficacy in its fastest vaccine prequalification process ever.
The pre-qualification announcement was in Nov. 2019.
“The speed with which this has been achieved has been made possible by a different approach, where national licensing procedures were done in parallel based on one single scientific review process.
“Usually, these process are done one by one, which can take years,” the statement said.
It noted that the process was led by WHO, with the participation of the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, an African network of national regulatory authorities and ethics committees, the European Medicines Agency, and Merck.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said that the rapid approval of the Ebola vaccine by countries in the Africa would help to ensure critical prevention tool would be available when needed.
“This kind of collaboration and innovation is a model for other health priorities,” Moeti said.
The statement disclosed that the injectable Ebola vaccine, Ervebo, is manufactured by Merck.
“Preliminary study results have shown a 97.5 per cent vaccine efficacy. Data also suggests that vaccinating people who are already infected reduces their chances of dying,” it said.
WHO disclosed that in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the DRC, over 290,000 people have been vaccinated under compassionate use protocols.
It said that once licensed doses are available, use of the vaccine in DRC will no longer require these protocols.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the International Health Regulations 2005 Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease on Feb. 12, maintained that Ebola outbreak in the DRC still constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).