Wellcome pledges £2m after new Ebola outbreak confirmed

Wellcome is making an initial fund of up to £2 million available to support a rapid response to the new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The pledge comes after the DRC government announced the latest outbreak following tests that confirmed two cases of Ebola in the Bikoro area, near the north-west border. It’s the ninth Ebola outbreak in DRC.

The funding will be available to the government of the DRC and the World Health Organization (WHO) for the critical research needed to support the operational response now underway in the country.

Wellcome’s £2m emergency funding will also be supported by £1m funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through the Joint Initiative on Epidemic Preparedness

Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, said: "It’s vital the global response to this outbreak is swift. We know from previous outbreaks that the DRC are ready to act, but they need global support to ensure this outbreak is contained effectively. We must ensure the very best protection for the communities at risk and for the health workers working to protect lives – now and for future outbreaks. Wellcome is committed to helping the world tackle the Ebola threat and we have made funds available immediately."

Wellcome is working closely with members of the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) network.

First response teams from the DRC, WHO and MSF are now in Bikoro to understand the epidemic, and strengthen coordination and investigations.

Dr Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response, said: "The first step in containing this outbreak is to understand the extent of transmission, ensure care for people infected, engage communities and trace contacts. The generous support from Wellcome and partners like DFID and GloPID-R in combination with WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies is already making a difference."

Ebola vaccine

In December 2016, trials of an Ebola vaccine, with funders including Wellcome, DFID and the Norwegian government, confirmed it provides a high level of protection against a strain of the deadly disease. This vaccine was one of a number developed rapidly during the epidemic but came too late to have a significant impact on the 2016 outbreak. 

The vaccine, made by MSD, has been proved safe for human use and is stockpiled, ready for use, by the vaccines alliance GAVI.

Several other vaccines are also in development, including candidates from Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Russia and China.

Update

25 July 2018: WHO declared the DRC Ebola outbreak over. Jeremy Farrar said that swift and decisive action by the DRC and WHO, regional partners and global support, had made it possible to deploy vaccines quickly and as a result the epidemic had been stopped much earlier than would otherwise have happened.

He added: "We must not be complacent. We should stop thinking of these as isolated, discrete events and instead focus on a long-term programme of research and response into which every epidemic of Ebola is included. We need to ensure that critical diagnostic, drug, vaccine, social science and technological research is operational and available within hours to everyone and every time there is an outbreak. Countries at greatest risk of Ebola epidemics must lead this with the full support of the international community."

May 2018: DRC began vaccinating health workers against Ebola in the areas affected by the outbreak. It is the first time a vaccine has been used as part of the emergency response against Ebola.

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