The Gavi global alliance for vaccines and immunization group signed a $5 million advance purchase commitment on Wednesday to buy a vaccine being developed by Merck to protect against future outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus.
Gavi said the agreement would help the U.S. drugmaker take the experimental Ebola vaccine through late-stage clinical trials to licensing and then through pre-qualification by the World Health Organization (WHO).
If approved, Merck's so-called VSV-ZEBOV live attenuated Ebola Zaire vaccine would become one of the world's first licensed Ebola shots and Gavi would be able to start buying it to create a stockpile for future outbreaks, it said in a statement issued at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
A vast epidemic of Ebola which swept through three countries in West Africa last year killed more than 11,300 people and infected more than 28,600.
"The suffering caused by the Ebola crisis was a wake-up call to many in the global health community," said Gavi's chief executive Seth Berkley.
"New threats require smart solutions and our innovative financing agreement with Merck will ensure that we are ahead of the curve for future Ebola outbreaks."
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