Tuesday January 28, 2020

Vaccine Alliance GAVI to Invest $178 Million to Create Global Stockpile Ebola Vaccines

Vaccine group announce creation of ebola vaccine stockpile

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Vaccine
There are similar stockpiles for vaccines against yellow fever, meningitis and cholera. Pixabay

The vaccine alliance GAVI announced Thursday it would invest $178 million to create a global stockpile of about 500,000 Ebola vaccines, a decision that health officials say could help prevent future outbreaks from spiraling out of control.

The public-private partnership includes the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank, among others. The funding announcement was made after a meeting of GAVI’s board. GAVI said the investment, which it called an estimate, will be provided between now and 2025.

Since the current outbreak in eastern Congo was identified last August, health officials have immunized more than 255,000 people with a recently licensed vaccine made by Merck. To date there have been nearly 3,200 confirmed Ebola cases, including more than 2,200 deaths, in what has become the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of Gavi’s board, called the creation of the Ebola vaccine stockpile a “historic milestone in humanity’s fight against this horrific disease.” GAVI said “a coordinating mechanism” to decide how and when vaccines will be used will be established with partner organizations.

There are similar stockpiles for vaccines against yellow fever, meningitis and cholera. Those limited shots are doled out to developing countries by WHO, UNICEF, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders after receiving technical advice from others.

Ebola Vaccine Stockpile
A healthcare worker from the World Health Organization prepares vaccines to give to front line aid workers, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

The Ebola vaccine stockpile will be available to all countries, but only developing countries will be able to get vaccines for free in addition to support for the logistical costs of mounting vaccination campaigns.

Jason Nickerson, a humanitarian affairs adviser at Doctors Without Borders, said the new stockpile would change how officials respond to future Ebola outbreaks.

“Knowing how many doses of the vaccine exist in the world, and then being able to get a supply of them to high-risk countries in a very quick way, gives us another tool to respond to these outbreaks,” he said.

Earlier this year, the medical charity publicly called for an independent committee to oversee Ebola vaccination efforts in Congo, saying WHO sometimes used arbitrary criteria to determine who would get immunized. It said the fact that Ebola was continuing to spread despite the large number of people vaccinated was a damning assessment of the response.

Containing this outbreak has been complicated by violence and misunderstandings in a part of Congo that had never reported an Ebola case before.

Also Read-Measles Kills 140,000 people, WHO Calls it “Collective Failure”

Last week, response activities were suspended after attacks killed four Ebola responders, including a member of a vaccination team. Multiple rebel groups operate in eastern Congo and the region has been described as a war zone.

WHO has warned continued attacks on health workers and Ebola clinics could undermine attempts to curb Ebola and prompt a resurgence of the disease. (VOA)

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Skin Cream Used To Treat Warts, Skin Cancer May Help in Fighting Against Dengue, Zika Viruses

By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a 'silver bullet' for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases

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A study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases. Pixabay

A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study.

The cream, called imiquimod or Aldara, is commonly used to treat genital warts and some forms of skin cancer.

“This study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases,” said study lead author Clive McKimmie, from the University of Leeds in UK.

For the findings, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers studied four types of virus transmitted by mosquitos and found that applying a cream within an hour of a mosquito bite dramatically reduced infection rates in their models.

They used two different models to understand the effect of the skin cream – human skin samples and mice. In both cases, applying the skin cream acted like a warning signal which caused a rapid activation of the skin’s immune response that fights any potential viral threats. This prevented the virus from spreading around the body and causing disease.

“What is especially encouraging about our results is that the cream was effective against a number of distinct viruses, without needing to be targeted to one particular virus,” McKimmie said. “If this strategy can be developed into a treatment option then we might be able to use it to tackle a wide range of new emerging diseases that we have not yet encountered,” McKimmie added.

There are hundreds of viruses spread by biting mosquitoes which can infect humans. These include the dengue virus, West Nile virus, Zika virus and chikungunya virus, which have all had large outbreaks in recent years. At present, there are no anti-viral medicines and few vaccines to help combat these infections.

According to the researchers, when a mosquito bites the skin, the body reacts in a very specific way to try and mitigate the physical trauma of the skin being punctured. The bite causes a wound healing repair mechanism to begin, however, the skin does not prepare itself to respond to viral attack. This means mosquito-borne viruses that enter the skin through a bite are able to replicate quickly with little anti-viral response in the skin and then spread throughout the body, the study said.

Cream, Lotion, Hands, Sunscreen, Spa, Skin, Wellness
A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study. Pixabay

By applying skin cream after a bite, researchers found that they could pre-emptively activate the immune system’s inflammatory response before the virus becomes a problem. The cream encouraged a type of immune cell in the skin, called a macrophage, to suddenly spring into action to fight off the virus before it could spread around the body.

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“By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a ‘silver bullet’ for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases,” said study co-author Steven Bryden. (IANS)