December 20, 2019 / 7:44 PM / a month ago

Merck says Ebola vaccine to be available at lowest access price for poor nations

Dec 20 (Reuters) - Merck & Co said on Friday it expects to make licensed doses of its recently approved Ebola vaccine available in the third quarter of 2020 and price the single-dose injection at the lowest possible access price for poor and middle-income countries.

The vaccine, Ervebo, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, a month after Europe gave its nod to the vaccine, a move that has been hailed by the World Health Organization.

Stockpile of 500,00 doses of Ebola vaccine is being established for emergency use in outbreaks of the deadly fever by the GAVI global vaccine alliance, Reuters reported earlier this month. The stockpiling will start with Merck’s Ervebo vaccine.

GAVI, a public-private partnership backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the WHO, the World Bank and UNICEF, arranges bulk buys to reduce vaccine costs for poor countries.

“We have made a commitment to making the vaccine available to GAVI-eligible countries at the lowest possible access price,” Merck spokesman Skip Irvine said. “We have made that commitment but we have not yet established the price for the vaccine.”

The Ebola virus causes haemorrhagic fever and spreads from person to person through direct contact with body fluids. It kills around half of those it infects.

There have been more than 3,000 cases of Ebola, including 2,199 deaths, in the outbreak that was declared in August 2018. The WHO declared it an international emergency in July 2019.

The company said it was working closely with the U.S. government, WHO, UNICEF, and GAVI to prepare against the disease.

Johnson and Johnson’s two-dose vaccine is currently being reviewed by the European regulator. The company is in discussion with the FDA for U.S. approval.

Merck shares rose as much as up 2.8% to record high of $92.55 on Friday. (Reporting by Dania Nadeem in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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