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Serum Institute to produce Ebola vaccine for use in Uganda

by Haruna Gimba
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By Asmau Ahmad

The Serum Institute of India plans to manufacture 20,000 to 30,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine by the end of November for use in trials against an outbreak in Uganda.

The developers and a company source said the response to Uganda’s outbreak had been blunted by the absence of a proven vaccine against the Sudan strain of the virus.

There have been 54 confirmed cases and 19 deaths since September, with the first case in the capital, Kampala, was recorded last week.

Although health authorities believe the actual number could be higher.

Vaccines against the more common Zaire strain of Ebola have proven highly effective during recent outbreaks in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, which developed a COVID-19 vaccine with AstraZeneca (AZN.L), has an Ebola vaccine that has been shown to induce an immune response to both the Sudan and Zaire strains in Phase 1 trials.

The developers said it could be deployed in Uganda as part of a clinical trial once the authorities there gave regulatory approval.

“We are working very closely with Serum Institute to rapidly scale up the manufacture of this vaccine,” said Teresa Lambe, Chief Scientific Adviser on Ebola at the Jenner Institute.

“We are hoping to have a large number of doses, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 or more by mid-to-end of November,” she said.

A source at the Serum Institute, the world’s biggest vaccine maker and part of a conglomerate run by Indian billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla, confirmed this information.

The source said the Ebola vaccine doses would be supplied free of cost.

Uganda’s Information Minister, Chris Baryomunsi, said on Saturday that he did not have any information on a vaccine rollout but that the outbreak was under control.

President Yoweri Museveni said, the same day, that the government would implement an overnight curfew and restrict movement in and out of two districts in central Uganda affected by Ebola for 21 days.

World Health Organisation (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said last week that clinical trials of two vaccines could begin in the coming weeks pending Ugandan government approvals, without naming the vaccines.

There are at least six vaccines in development for the Sudan strain, including three with Phase 1 data, according to WHO.

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