HHS to provide $23 million to Merck for Ebola vaccine production

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(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Wednesday it will fund the manufacturing of Merck & Co Inc’s investigational Ebola vaccine called V920, in response to the outbreak of the deadly virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Ebola hemorrhagic fever has killed at least 1,900 people in Congo over the past year, the second biggest death toll in the disease’s history, after a 2014-16 outbreak in West Africa that killed 11,300 people.

The agency said it will give $23 million to Merck to produce the vaccine doses over the next year.

With the new funding, HHS will have spent about $176 million to support development of V920, the agency said.

The vaccine is available for people at risk of contracting Ebola in the ongoing DRC outbreak, through an expanded access protocol, the agency said.

HHS has also provided funding for the Department of Defense to transport bulk vaccine materials from Merck’s facilities in Germany to its unit in Pennsylvania to produce additional doses of the vaccine.

More than 192,000 people have been vaccinated with V920 through compassionate use as of August 16, according to HHS.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli