Ebola uganda
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Ebola vaccine that Merck & Co. donated to an international immunization group will be part of a trial testing three shots against a resistant strain of the deadly virus that's spreading in Uganda.

The vaccine, now licensed to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in New York, was recommended for testing alongside experimental shots from the Washington-based Sabin Vaccine Institute and the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute, the World Health Organization said Wednesday in a statement. The worldwide health agency will run the trial in cooperation with Uganda's Ministry of Health, which accepted the WHO recommendation.

The trial is hoped to be an important step toward controlling the Uganda outbreak that's driven by the Sudan strain of Ebola, which authorized shots don't prevent. The WHO and vaccine makers are working to find a way to stem the infection, which has already led to at least 141 cases, including 55 deaths, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing.

The Public Health Agency of Canada holds the rights to the vaccine after it provided funding for its development about two decades ago. After acquiring a license to the vaccine through a 2014 collaboration, Merck returned it to the Canadian agency, and it was later licensed by IAVI, according to Mark Feinberg, the group's chief executive officer.

Merck had enough vaccine ingredient in its freezers to make about 100,000 doses, all of which has been donated to IAVI, Feinberg said. IAVI will make approximately 75,000 doses available to the WHO, aiming to have them in Uganda by early December. Under its license, the group has also made its own doses along with a manufacturing partner, which IAVI expects to perform similarly to Merck's.

"But the availability of the Merck doses has allowed us to significantly accelerate our program," Feinberg said.