UN: UN Ebola mission concludes duty in West Africa, as Ebola vaccine makes waves

New York, US (PANA) - The UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER)on Friday officially concluded its duty in the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic.

In a statement, obtained by PANA in New York, UNMEER said it decided to end operations,  having achieved its "core objective" of scaling up global action to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

It noted that it has transferred its role to the World Health Organization (WHO), which just announced that an experimental vaccine being tested in Guinea appears to be highly effective and could be a "game changer".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: "The Mission has achieved its core objective of scaling up the response on the ground and establishing unity of purpose among responders in support of the nationally led efforts."

Ban said that as of 1 August, oversight of the UN system’s Ebola emergency response will fully be led by the WHO under the direct authority of its Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan.

"The United Nations remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting the Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in getting to and staying at zero cases," the UN chief said.

On his part, UN Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, who will continue to provide strategic guidance for the response, said that the UN mission was always designed to be a temporary measure, and when it was no longer needed, the UN system would go back to its more normal disposition in responding to the outbreak.

UNMEER, the first-ever UN emergency health mission, was established on 19 September 2014 to meet immediate needs related to the unprecedented fight against Ebola.

The mission deployed financial, logistical and human resources to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to support the push to zero cases.

Meanwhile, on the Ebola vaccine, WHO announcement, in results it published on Friday in the medical journal, 'The Lancet', that the results from an interim analysis of trials in Guinea show that the VSV-EBOV vaccine is highly effective against Ebola, which has killed more than 11,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, as well as Guinea, in an epidemic that has proved devastating for the region.

The agency said that "while the vaccine up to now shows 100 per cent efficacy in individuals, more conclusive evidence is needed on its capacity to protect populations."

It noted that the Guinea vaccination trial began in affected communities on 23 March 2015 to evaluate the efficacy, effectiveness and safety of a single dose of the vaccine VSV-EBOV by using a so-called ring vaccination strategy.

"To date, over 4,000 close contacts of almost 100 Ebola patients, including family members, neighbours, and co-workers, have voluntarily participated in the trial," it said.

Describing the initial results as "promising and exciting", WHO Executive Director Dr. Margaret Chan, told reporters: "I would like to say that if proven effective, this is going to be a game-changer. It will change the management of the current Ebola outbreak and future outbreaks."

Dr. Chan said the credit for the Ebola vaccine development goes to the Guinean government, the people living in the communities and WHO’s partners in this project.

The trial is being implemented by the Guinean authorities, WHO, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, with support from a broad partnership of international and national organizations.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, who leads WHO’s Ebola Research and Development effort, described the pace of the development as "record-breaking" that "marks a turning point in the history of health R&D."

According to WHO, the vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The vaccine was licensed to NewLink Genetics, and on 24 November 2014, Merck & Co., Inc and NewLink Genetics Corp. entered into an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement wherein Merck assumed responsibility to research, develop, manufacture, and distribute the investigational vaccine.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 31July2015

31 july 2015 20:20:33

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