Ebola vaccine built on same technology as Covid-19 jab from J&J shows long-lasting success
Just weeks after a J&J candidate failed its first trial in an effort to build a vaccine against HIV, that same vaccine technology scored the company a victory in the fight against a virus that has emerged yet again, and threatens to cause havoc in Africa if left unchecked alongside Covid-19.
A two-dose vaccine regimen from J&J to fight Ebola was long-lasting during trials in adults and children, the company said Monday, as the immune response lasts in adults for at least two years.
The regimen — which uses Zabdeno (Ad26.ZEBOV) for one shot, and Mvabea (MVA-BN-Filo) for the next, 56 days later — spurred no safety concerns, and J&J said that a booster shot could be administered two years after the initial vaccination, as it showed a strong immune response seven days later.
Vaccination against Ebola is welcomed: The virus has killed about half of the people it infects. The World Health Organization has put West Africa on notice, as new outbreaks have put pressure on African healthcare systems that are often already working with limited resources.
“These peer-reviewed data support the prophylactic use of the Johnson & Johnson Ebola vaccine regimen to protect people at risk of Ebola, which is essential to our vision of preventing Ebola outbreaks before they can begin,” J&J CSO Paul Stoffels said in a statement. “Recent and ongoing outbreaks in Africa underscore that the threat of Ebola is not going away, which is why we collaborated to develop a vaccine regimen capable of inducing long-term immunity against Ebola and are now working to ensure that it is accessible to people in need.”
Zabdeno is created on an adenovirus-based platform that genetically modifies those viruses to prevent them from replicating in humans as they ferry immunity-inducing glycoproteins into the body, while Mvabea is delivered on a modified Ankara vector.
Because children account for a large portion of Ebola cases and deaths, a randomized, double-blinded trial in Sierra Leone, a region heavily affected by the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak that was the worst on record to date, J&J said, was conducted in healthy children between the ages of 1 and 17. They were split up into three cohorts — ages 1-3, 4-11 and 12-17 — and there were 192 children in each group.
As far as side effects are concerned, the most common was injection site pain, the Lancet paper said. The company said that there were no treatment-related deaths, and the antibody response 21 days after the second dose was observed in 98% of children.
The vaccine regimen was approved in Europe in July 2020, and received prequalification from the WHO in April 2021, which allows it to be used in developing countries.
Earlier this year, outbreaks in Sierra Leone and Guinea caused J&J to announce the donation of 200,000 doses of the jab.