Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Three experimental Ebola vaccines head to Uganda

To help fight the outbreak in the country, thousands of doses from Oxford University, Sabin Vaccine Institute and Merck could reach Uganda by the end of this year.
illustration of repeating pattern of syringes and medicine vials

Story at a glance

  • There have been 129 confirmed cases in the Ebola outbreak in Uganda and 37 deaths so far.

  • The outbreak has reached the country’s capital city. 

  • Three experimental vaccine candidates are being deployed to Uganda to help fight the outbreak and gather more data for clinical trials.

Three experimental Ebola vaccine candidates are being shipped to Uganda to aid in combatting the ongoing outbreak in the country, which has so far seen 129 confirmed cases and 37 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health of Uganda.

The outbreak, caused by a version of the virus that originated in Sudan, has reached Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and is affecting six other districts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is an approved and available vaccine for a different type of Ebola virus, the species named “Zaire ebolavirus.” 

However, the species named “Sudan ebolavirus” does not have an approved vaccine available. 

The three experimental vaccine candidates being sent to Uganda are currently in development to protect against that species. As they help fight the current outbreak, their use in the country will also supply additional data for clinical trials.

The shipment of the vaccine candidates is part of a large-scale coordinated effort between health agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC, and the Ugandan government to fight the outbreak.

“We are committed to continuing working with the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health to ensure that the Ebola outbreak is contained. WHO is supporting all response pillars including case management to make sure that all cases are managed properly,” said Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the WHO Representative to Uganda, in a press release.

Here’s what we know about the vaccine candidates.

Oxford’s Ebola vaccine 

Data from early clinical trials of a vaccine candidate from Oxford University suggests it may provide immunity against both Sudan and Zaire species of the virus. This vaccine candidate is being manufactured by the Serum Institute in India. 

The vaccine developers anticipate 20,000 to 30,000 doses will be ready for deployment by the end of November. 

Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Ebola vaccine 

A vaccine candidate developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is licensed to the Sabin Vaccine Institute in the U.S. The Institute is expediting 7,000 to 9,000 doses to give to the WHO and the Ugandan government, according to the CDC

This vaccine candidate has passed phase 1 clinical trials to test safety in a small number of participants and the organization is planning for phase 2 clinical trials, according to its website

Merck’s Ebola vaccine 

Merck’s Sudan ebolavirus vaccine candidate will be distributed in Uganda in partnership with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), according to a press release

“We are moving with urgency to prepare these vials and donate them to IAVI as quickly as possible to help support the efforts of the WHO and the people of Uganda as they grapple with this outbreak,” said Beth-Ann Coller, the executive director of Global Clinical Development Vaccines at Merck Research Laboratories, in the press release. 

The company said that they will donate 50,000 doses from existing stock by the end of this year. This vaccine is similar to another vaccine for the Zaire Ebola virus offered by Merck and developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory called ERVEBO. 

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