Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome said: “Confirmation of an Ebola case in Mbandaka, a major urban centre, around 150km from the cases reported last week, is an extremely concerning development. Ebola spreads rapidly, and this outbreak is in an area where people connect, trade and travel - an environment ripe for spreading disease. Swift and decisive action by the DRC and WHO to bring this outbreak under control means vaccines are now in the affected area".
In December 2016, final trials of an Ebola vaccine, with funders including Wellcome, UK and the Norwegian governments, confirmed it provides a high level of protection against a strain of the deadly disease. This vaccine, made by Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, was one of a number developed rapidly during the 2014-16 epidemic but came too late to have a significant impact. Several other vaccines are also in development, including candidates from Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Russia and China
“Had a vaccine been available earlier alongside other critical public health interventions in the devastating epidemic of 2014 to 2016, thousands of lives might have been saved. Thanks to rapid national response and global collaboration, this time around we are in a better position to protect the communities at risk and the health workers dedicated to protecting lives. But this will be an incredibly challenging operation, across a vast area and fragile health systems – and cannot be limited to deployment of vaccines.
“Wellcome has made an initial fund of up to £2 million available to support the rapid response underway. Further funding will be needed, and we are working with our global partners, through the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GLOPID-R) network and the WHO to address this.”