Following Merck approval, Gavi authorizes $178M to build Ebola vaccine stockpile

Merck won European approval for its Ebola vaccine Ervebo in November. (Merck)

After years of collaboration with partners, Merck just last month won the world’s first Ebola vaccine licensure. Now, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has made a major funding commitment to build up the global stockpile.

At a meeting in Delhi, India, Gavi’s board approved $178 million in funding through 2025 to purchase doses for the stockpile. Low- and middle- income countries that receive Gavi support will be able to access doses for free, while other countries will be able to access the vaccine but must pay for doses. 

In addition to the stockpile, Gavi said it’s supporting “targeted” vaccination in populations that are at risk—such as healthcare workers. The exact vaccination target populations will be determined by the World Health Organization’s (WHO's) vaccination advisers.  

Already, WHO advisers have determined the global Ebola vaccine stockpile should be 500,000 doses, and Gavi said it’ll work up a “coordinating mechanism” with partners to determine how doses should be put into use. 

RELATED: Merck's Ervebo, the world's first Ebola shot, wins inaugural approval in EU 

UNICEF, Gavi’s partner and purchasing agency, will determine pricing of the vaccines it buys. Already, officials have used about 250,000 doses of Merck’s vaccine to fight an ongoing outbreak in Congo. Johnson & Johnson’s candidate vaccine has been used in 1,000 people, Gavi said. 

Doctors Without Borders humanitarian affairs adviser Jason Nickerson said in a statement the stockpile funding is a "positive step." His agency called for a "thorough, independent, and transparent estimate of the costs of manufacturing the vaccine, to ensure that the price paid is fair and reasonable."

The news comes right on the heels of the European Commission’s conditional approval for Merck’s Ervebo after years of development and testing. Merck licensed the shot amid the world’s deadliest Ebola outbreak in history in 2014 and advanced it with numerous partners. Originally, researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory developed the vaccine and licensed it to NewLink Genetics. 

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In addition to the stockpile funding authorization, Gavi’s board signed off on $11.3 million in funding for pilot programs of GlaxoSmithKline’s malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya.