The World Health Organization said Thursday it plans to begin administering Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV (V920) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo "as soon as possible." WHO noted that 4,300 doses of the Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK) vaccine are already in the region and an additional 7,540 doses are being shipped to the African nation.
The vaccine is being given as part of an expanded access protocol, according to Merck, which has a stockpile of more than 300,000 emergency use dose equivalents. WHO declared the situation an "outbreak" on May 8 (see BioCentury Extra, May 14).
WHO also reported on Thursday five additional Ebola cases, including one confirmed case in the Wangata health zone of Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.5 million people. The two prior confirmed Ebola cases were in the town of Bikoro, about 150 km away from Mbandaka. So far, there have been 44 reported cases of Ebola virus disease.
rVSV-ZEBOV is a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vaccine expressing an Ebola virus protein.
Final data from a 11,841-subject Phase III ring vaccination trial published in 2016 in The Lancet showed that rVSV-ZEBOV led to no Ebola cases after 10 or more days postvaccination compared with 23 cases in subjects who did not receive the vaccine. Subjects were followed for 84 days.
The vaccine was originally developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which retains non-commercial rights under a 2010 deal granting NewLink Genetics Corp. (NASDAQ:NLNK) rights to the product. Merck has exclusive, worldwide rights to develop, commercialize and manufacture the vaccine from NewLink under a 2014 deal (see BioCentury Extra, Nov. 24, 2014).
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