Geneva, 31 July 2015 – An Ebola vaccine should be made available to stop infections in affected communities in West Africa as soon as possible, Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley said today, after interim trial results from the World Health Organization suggested it is 100% effective at preventing the disease.
Interim results of the trials of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, which began in the Basse-Guinée area of Guinea in March 2015, were published in The Lancet. Funded and organised by a consortium of partners including the Guinean Government, the Canadian Government, the Norwegian Government, Médecins Sans Frontières, the Wellcome Trust, and the WHO, the trial involved vaccinating more than 3,500 people using ring vaccination, a known public health approach, to study the effects of the vaccine on volunteers.
Ring vaccination involves tracing known contacts of an Ebola patient and vaccinating them as soon as possible, thereby creating a ring of immunised people to prevent further spread of the virus. The trial also showed that infection rates fell in the broader community, beyond those vaccinated, indicating that ring vaccination is an effective strategy to help end the on-going outbreak. The trial also compared the effects of immediate vaccination with delayed vaccination. Following the positive trial results, delayed vaccination was stopped and the vaccine was offered immediately following all cases of Ebola.
“Today’s Ebola vaccine trial results offer tremendous hope to communities that have been blighted by the devastating impact of the outbreak,” said Dr Berkley. “These communities need an effective vaccine sooner rather than later and Gavi stands ready to support the implementation of a WHO-recommended Ebola vaccine while continuing to work closely with all partners involved in the Ebola response.”
“The consortium of partners should be congratulated on the remarkable speed with which it put together these important and practical trials,” added Dr Berkley. “The global community will rightly expect the pace – alongside a high level of diligence – to be maintained so that people in affected communities and others living in countries at risk of Ebola can have access to a vaccine as soon as possible. We need to be ready to act wherever the virus is a threat.”
The Ebola crisis has claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people, with nearly 28,000 infected, in West Africa in the past 20 months. There is currently no treatment for the disease, which, according to the WHO, has an average fatality rate of around 50%.
In December 2014, the Gavi Board agreed to make funding available to purchase doses of Ebola vaccine, once approved by the WHO. The funding is also available to support the operational costs countries face when introducing an Ebola vaccine and to help rebuild severely damaged health systems.
Through the funding, Gavi is also helping Ebola-affected countries to restart their routine immunisation systems, which were devastated by the Ebola outbreak. As well as supporting immunisation campaigns, Gavi funding will enable Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to recruit and retrain health workers, upgrade supply chains and trace children who have missed out on vaccinations.