A global stockpile has been established of the Ebola vaccine in an effort to provide the capacity to rapidly react to incidents of international spread of the disease, as well as curb current outbreaks.
The effort was orchestrated by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The ICG receives financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The vaccine stockpile is currently being held in Switzerland, with a promise of a 48-hour response to any international request for vaccine access. Provisions have been made to allow for rapid distribution of the vaccine to countries as needed, along with ultra-cold chain packaging with an estimated delivery time of seven days as of the request for access.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us of the incredible power of vaccines to save lives from deadly viruses,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable. This new stockpile is an excellent example of solidarity, science and cooperation between international organisations and the private sector to save lives.”
Ebola made headlines worldwide recently as Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum — famed for being one of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976 — has suggested a far greater threat may emerge than COVID-19. The threat in question is the ominously-titled “Disease X”
A woman in the Congo — the location in which Ebola was discovered — was brought to the doctor’s attention when displaying similar symptoms to Ebola such as haemorrhagic fever. After the woman tested negative for a range of tests including Ebola, the doctor’s were left unsure of the nature of the disease, designating the woman patient zero for “Disease X”.
While further information has yet to be revealed, doctors studying the new condition speculated it could combine both the lethality of Ebola and the transmission rate of COVID-19. This creates an all but apocalyptic scenario should it begin to spread.
The perpetual threat of disease mutation — as is currently being seen as ever more strains of mutant COVID-19 arise, in India and abroad — as well as the spread of existing disease, or the discovery and spread of new diseases, makes vaccine stockpiles such as this an absolute necessity.
“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key. This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement – one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most as quickly as possible.”