DOUBTS are growing whether the world's emergency stockpile of 300,000 Ebola vaccine does enough to control future epidemics as the deadly disease moves out of rural forest areas and into mega-cities.

Outbreak response experts at the World Health Organization [WHO] and at the vaccine alliance  GAVI are already talking to the leading Ebola vaccine manufacturer, Merck, to reassess just how much larger global stocks need to be.

''We're actively engaged with the World Health Organization and with Groups like GAVI, the US government and others to try to understand what will be an appropriate sized stockpile in the future,'' Merck head of magazines clinical research, Beth Ann Collier, said in a telephone interview.

Supply of the Merck shot which is currently being used to fight a large and spreading outbreak of Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is not a problem right now, according to the WHO deputy director-general  of emergency preparedness and response, Peter Salama.

But the nature of Ebola outbreaks is changing, he told Reuters. As the virus finds its way out of rural villages into populous urban settings, plans for how to contain it in future must change too.

''What 'm concerned about is the medium to long-term stockpile. The figure of 300,000 was very much based previous Ebola outbreaks when you never really had huge numbers of cases because they were in isolated, rural, population.
But now, we increasingly see, Ebola in mega-cities and towns.''

Merck's experimental Ebola vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, is the furthest ahead in development. Another potential vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson could also eventually become part of the stockpile, global health officials say.

Congo's  two Ebola outbreaks this years illustrate the shifting nature of the threat. [Agencies]


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