Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-Backed Group Commits $300 Million To Ebola

Published: Dec 11, 2014

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December 11, 2014
By Jessica Wilson, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Vaccine alliance Gavi today announced that its board has approved plans to spend up to $300 million to purchase 12 million courses of Ebola vaccines, once they become available. The board has also authorized up to $45 million to facilitate the roll out of the vaccine program, including health worker training and improvements to cold storage facilities. A further $45 million has been earmarked to assist in the recovery of health systems and immunization programs for all vaccines in the countries that have suffered Ebola outbreaks.

Once Ebola vaccines become available and approved by the World Health Organization, Gavi funding could be used to create stockpiles in countries vulnerable to outbreaks. Gavi has already underwritten such stockpiles of vaccines for yellow fever, meningitis A and cholera. Stockpiles are necessary for rapid treatment to deter outbreaks.

“We are making determined efforts to ensure that people living in Ebola-affected countries are protected as soon as possible and do not have to face another terrible outbreak in the future,” Gavi Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten said in a statement.

Although no vaccine for Ebola is currently available, two manufacturers have candidates undergoing human trials, according to Gavi, with several others about to begin human trials on their vaccine candidates. Bloomberg cited GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Merck & Co., NewLink Genetics Corp., and Johnson & Johnson as the companies working with regulators to develop vaccines. Regulators in Geneva today stopped a trial of Merck and NewLink's vaccine after patients complained of side effect pain.

Thus far, Ebola has infected at least 18,000 people and killed more than 6,000, primarily in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to world health authorities.

The Gavi board undertook the rare decision to prepare for the rollout of a vaccine before one is available based on recommendations made after three months of collaboration between the Gavi Secretariat and key stakeholders. During the three months, Gavi worked with Ebola-affected countries, the African Development Bank, WHO, UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Bank, vaccine manufacturers, civil society organizations including Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders], and donors to Gavi. Important donors to Gavi include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, countries from around the world as well as private partners, such as JP Morgan.

“The Ebola outbreak reminds us of the critical importance of vaccines in fighting infectious diseases,” Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said in a statement. “The Board’s decision underlines Gavi’s commitment to support the people of the Ebola-affected countries by ensuring that they will have access to a WHO-recommended vaccine as soon as one is approved and available from manufacturers.”

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