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Europe-wide response to Ebola epidemic

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Statement by Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva and Health Commissioner  Tonio Borg, following the high-level event to co-ordinate the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

"The EU is gravely concerned by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, where the situation continues to deteriorate. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and the dedicated health care workers who are doing their utmost to fight the spread of the virus and take care of the victims. Today (15 September), we have discussed with EU ministers how to co-ordinate further steps in a Europe-wide response to the epidemic.

"We welcome the contributions made already by our EU member states through the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism. We call on them to continue and strengthen their support to the region in order to respond to pressing needs such as effective treatment centres, sufficient numbers of health workers, and ensuring macro-economic stability. We will also do our utmost to align to the priorities identified and coordinated by the WHO.

"The EU has increased its response on several occasions since the outbreak of the epidemic and has so far pledged almost €150 million to help the affected countries. This includes ensuring treatment for infected patients and measures to contain the epidemic, as well as strengthening health care systems and improving food security, water and sanitation. EU mobile laboratories are deployed in the region to help with the diagnostics and confirmation of cases and train laboratory technicians. Furthermore, Liberia and Sierra Leone will receive financial assistance through budget support to help them deliver health care services and bolster macro-economic stability in response to wider economic challenges arising from the crisis.

"The EU is firmly committed to supporting the affected countries and their development in the immediate and longer-term.

"Today's meeting has reaffirmed our partnership and solidarity with West Africa. We also discussed actions to facilitate transport in and out of the region.

"We welcome the participation of the UN at this meeting, laying out efforts for international co-ordination, notably through the establishment of operational platforms. These efforts deserve our full support, and provide the appropriate backbone to deliver the European Comprehensive Response to the Ebola crisis.

"We agreed on the crucial importance of reliable systems of medical evacuation for humanitarian staff and medical workers in the affected countries so as to maintain an effective international response on the ground. To this end, we agreed to launch work without delay on developing a European co-ordination mechanism for medical evacuations. Participants at the meeting expressed their appreciation for a proposal from France which could form the basis of further discussion on such a mechanism.

"Despite the low risk of the virus circulating within EU countries, the need to continue working on preparedness and co-ordination of risk management was also stressed."

Ebola

Vaccine against #Ebola - Commission grants new market authorizations

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On 1 July, the European Commission adopted the decision granting marketing authorizations to the company Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson company, for a vaccine against Ebola. The authorization was granted in one month, reducing the decision-making process timing in half, further demonstrating the Commission's commitment in placing the protection of public health as a priority.

The new Ebola vaccine, which consists of two components, called Zabdeno and Mvabea, had been in development with the support of the Commission. This decision follows a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has assessed the benefits and risks of the vaccine.

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: "This is the second Ebola vaccine that the Commission authorises in less than a year and confirms once again that the EU remains at the forefront of the global effort to save lives from this virus. We know very well from the coronavirus crisis that viruses do not respect borders – protecting the health of others protects the health of all."

Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: "We can be glad to have supported the development of the Ebola vaccine with EU funding, in partnership with the European pharmaceutical sector under the Innovative Medicines Initiative. The investment from the EU's research programme Horizon 2020 into several Innovative Medicines Initiative Ebola projects is now bearing fruit. This demonstrates, yet again, the power of collaboration and European R&I leadership to tackle global health threats."

As explained by EMA when it recommended the approval last February, the ability of the immune system to respond to the virus after vaccination with Zabdeno and Mvabea was studied in a total of 3,367 adults, adolescents and children who participated in five clinical studies conducted in Europe, Africa and the US.

The development of the vaccine is the result of rigorous work by several projects funded with just over €130 million through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), which is partly supported by the EU's research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. Following a comprehensive approach, the EBOVAC 12 and 3, projects assessed the safety and tolerability of the Ebola vaccine regimen through clinical trials in Europe and Africa. The EBODAC project developed a communication strategy and tools to promote the acceptance and uptake of new Ebola vaccines. Finally, the EBOMAN project focused on accelerating the development and manufacture of the vaccine.

Background

The authorization of a medicine under the centralised procedure is a two-stage process, involving the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Commission. EMA assesses the benefits and risks of medicines and makes recommendations to the Commission, which then takes a final legally binding decision on whether or not the medicine can be marketed in the EU.

This decision is issued normally within the legal deadline of 67 days of the scientific opinion of EMA (for Zabdeno and Mvabea the date was 28 May). This phase includes, among other things, the translation of the product guidelines in all EU languages and a consultation with Member States. In view of the public health interest, the Commission has accelerated this process and authorised the medicine in around a month, in other words reducing the time taken for the decision-making process in half.

The assessment report for the vaccines will be published on EMA's website.

IMI funds large-scale collaborative research projects bringing together academic and industrial partners, as well as patients and other stakeholders.

In November 2014, IMI responded very rapidly to the West Africa outbreak of Ebola by allocating €280m to a comprehensive call for proposals to tackle a wide range of challenges in Ebola research, including vaccines development, clinical trials, storage and transport, as well as diagnostics. The first projects under the IMI Ebola+ programme started as early as January 2015 and several focused on the development of the Janssen vaccine regimen. Since 2014, IMI has funded 12 projects on Ebola and related diseases with a total combined budget of over EUR 300 million.

More information

EU's efforts to tackle Ebola

EU support to Ebola research  

EMA & Ebola

 

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Ebola

#Ebola - EU announces new funds to strengthen preparedness in #Burundi

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The Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to spread in the east of the country with a high risk of a spill-over into the neighbouring countries.

The European Union is stepping up its assistance to Burundi with €465,000 to further strengthen Ebola preparedness measures by authorities and aid organisations in the country.

Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides, who is also the EU's Ebola co-ordinator, said: ”To effectively fight the Ebola virus we do not only have to address the affected cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also increase our efforts to prevent the disease from spreading to neighbouring countries like Burundi. The European Union is therefore supporting ongoing Ebola preparedness measures in the country, including infection prevention and control. Everything possible must be done to avoid a further spread of the deadly virus.”

The new EU funding will be allocated through the World Health Organisation and will strengthen the coordination, surveillance and response capacities to Ebola in high-risk districts in Burundi, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This new funding complements the existing financial support to the ongoing EU efforts in Ebola surveillance and awareness-raising via NGOs and UN.

A press release is available here.

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#Ebola - EU provides an additional €30 million to tackle the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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The EU is contributing a further €30 million in humanitarian funding for Ebola response in efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The second deadliest Ebola outbreak on record has claimed so far more than 1,700 lives in a country already facing a dire humanitarian situation. The funding announcement brings total EU humanitarian aid to fight against Ebola to €47 million since 2018, when the current outbreak was declared.

Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides, who is also the EU's Ebola co-ordinator, said: “The fight against the epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo stands at a crucial juncture. The EU is vastly stepping up its aid to save lives and prevent further infections. We are providing new support to the authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organisation, and humanitarian partners on the ground. We also stand in full solidarity with the frontline responders putting their life at risk to tackle the outbreak."

The new EU funding will step up support for:

  • Infection prevention and control measures;
  • working with local communities to foster their acceptance of the response, including contagion prevention measures, access to health care, and safe and dignified burials, and;
  • support to Ebola survivors and their families.

Against the backdrop of a wider deteriorating humanitarian crisis, EU assistance will also address urgent humanitarian needs in Ebola-affected and high-risk areas by providing food, nutrition and access to health services and clean water.  

The Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking place in a challenging security, political and societal context. Conflict, high population mobility, a frail health system, and community mistrust continue to hinder the Ebola response teams' efforts in the country.

Background

While the Ebola virus epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo still remains confined to the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, there has been a flare up in the number of confirmed cases since April 2019, with the city of Beni, Butembo and Katwa being the main hotspots. According to the World Health Organisation's risk assessment, the risk of a national and regional spread of the disease remains very high, while the risk of a spread outside the region is low. On 14 July 2019 a case was detected in Goma, the main gateway city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and three spillover cases reached Uganda in early June 2019.

The Ebola crisis was declared as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organisation on 17 July 2019. In its rapid risk assessment published on 19 July 2019, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control concluded that the overall risk of introduction and spread of the Ebola virus to the EU/EEA remains very low.

How the EU is helping to fight Ebola:

  • Since August 2018, provided €47m humanitarian aid funding to aid organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo involved in various actions in the Ebola response in Ebola-affected or high-risk areas;
  • making available the use of the EU's Humanitarian Air Service, ECHO flight, to help humanitarian workers on the ground, by transporting personnel and equipment to Ebola-affected areas. Over 110 such flights have been operated to date;
  • having EU humanitarian health experts in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are involved in the coordination of the response;
  • supporting, through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, training on the use of high-tech isolation units for the medical evacuations of humanitarian workers. Six such isolation units were provided by Norway through the Mechanism to the Ebola response;
  • financial support to Ebola vaccine development and research on Ebola treatments and diagnostic tests (receivedover €160 million and €16.25 million, respectively, in EU funding since 2014);
  • supporting the health sector in the DRC through a development cooperation programme (€180 million from the 11th European Development Fund 2014-2020). Since February 2019, the EU is supporting with almost €6 million the provision of free health care services over a period of six months in eight Ebola-affected areas within the framework of the current Ebola Response Plan;
  • established, in co-operation with the World Health Organisation, a mechanism for the medical evacuation of health and humanitarian workers for treatment in the EU, and;
  • supporting Ebola prevention and preparedness measures in neighbouring countries to the Ebola-affected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2018, the EU has allocated over €3.6 million in Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi to strengthen their rapid detection and reaction measures to Ebola cases, in case of a spillover.

More information

Factsheets: Democratic Republic of Congo Ebola: EU response to the Ebola epidemic

Photo story: Not doctors but on the frontline of the EU Ebola response

Press releases: EU humanitarian aid to tackle Ebola in the DRC2019 Humanitarian funding for Ebola prevention and preparedness funding in Uganda and South Sudan

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