US drugmaker wins European approval for first-ever Ebola vaccine

Merck's vaccine, Ervebo, is approved for people over 18 years old and has already been used under emergency guidelines.

    The Ebola virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with body fluids, which is why this health worker is burning the food waste of Ebola patients at a treatment center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [File: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]
    The Ebola virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with body fluids, which is why this health worker is burning the food waste of Ebola patients at a treatment center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [File: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

    United States drugmaker Merck & Co Inc on Monday received approval from the European Commission to market its Ebola vaccine, less than a month after a European medicines panel backed the first-ever vaccine against the deadly virus.

    The vaccine, Ervebo, is approved for individuals aged 18 years and older and has already been used under emergency guidelines to try to protect against the spread of a deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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    The shot is also being reviewed by US health regulators, and a decision is expected in the first quarter of next year.

    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.

    Since the middle of last year, the Congo Ebola outbreak has killed more than 2,100 people, making it the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, after the 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,300.

    "The EU is supporting international efforts to combat Ebola on all fronts, from vaccine development to delivering humanitarian aid on the ground," EU Ebola Coordinator Christos Stylianides said in a statement dated November 10, 2019.

    Merck has said its priority was to get regulatory approval of its Ervebo manufacturing site in Germany so that licenced supply of the vaccine "can be used to support global public health preparedness".

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency