The global vaccines alliance said it was committing up to £191m to buy Ebola vaccines, as one experimental treatment hit a snag in a Swiss clinical trial after some subjects reported joint pains.
Scientists are racing to develop Ebola vaccines but much work remains to be done, as evidenced by a decision to pause the Swiss tests of a vaccine from NewLink and Merck.
The alliance, GAVI, which is funded by governments and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said it was ready to begin procurement as soon as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended a vaccine for use.
The world’s worst Ebola outbreak has killed more than 6,000 people in West Africa, and experts believe millions of doses of vaccine may be needed both to help end the current epidemic and to contain future outbreaks.
Researchers hope safe and effective vaccines will get the green light as soon as next year, although there is still uncertainty over how well they will work. Paying for vaccines is also a challenge because the worst affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are some of the world’s poorest.
The money now earmarked by Geneva-based GAVI will help bridge the gap and is expected to be enough to procure up to 12 million courses of vaccine.