European health authorities gave the world’s first Ebola vaccine a green light on Monday, marking a major breakthrough in the quest to prevent exposure to the deadly disease.
The European Commission adopted a recommendation to grant marketing authorization for the Ervebo vaccine, manufactured by Merck. The decision comes less than a month after European regulators recommended the drug’s approval.
“Finding a vaccine as soon as possible against this terrible virus has been a priority for the international community ever since Ebola hit West Africa five years ago. Today’s decision is therefore a major step forward in saving lives in Africa and beyond,” Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commission official in charge of health and food safety, said in a statement.
The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing Merck’s submission for Ervebo’s approval under a priority review pathway, and is expected to issue a decision by March 2020.
The drug’s clinical development was launched during the outbreak in West Africa five years ago. That outbreak, which lasted until 2016, resulted in more than 11,000 deaths.
The vaccine is already being used under emergency guidelines for the current outbreak in Congo to protect people at risk of infection, such as health care workers. The vaccine has an effective rate of 97.5 percent, according to the World Health Organization.
There are over 3,000 confirmed Ebola cases in Congo, and the outbreak has killed more than 2,100 people.