DR Congo begins first Ebola vaccination
DR Congo began administering an experimental Ebola vaccine to medical staff in the northwestern city of Mbandaka on Monday to tackle an outbreak of the virus believed to have killed 26 people since early April.
The first wave of immunizations targeted healthcare staff in the northwest of the country who have had direct or indirect contact with infected patients, the DRC government said on Monday.
Alarm bells sounded last week after the outbreak, previously reported in a remote rural area of the country, notched up its first Mbandaka a city of 1.2 million people, where three subsequent cases have been confirmed. Mbandaka lies on the Congo River with regular transport links to the Kinshasa, raising concerns that the virus could spread to the capital where 10 million people live. The need to keep the vaccine at 80 degrees Celsius below freezing (minus 112 Fahrenheit) in a humid region with erratic electricity supply has further complicated the operation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) hailed the vaccinations as a “paradigm shift” in how to fight the disease which killed more than 11,300 people in a West African epidemic between 2013 and 2016. (WHO) has dispatched 35 immunisation experts, including 16 mobilised during the last deadly outbreak in West Africa, which began in 2013. The rest of the team is made up of newly trained staff from the DRC.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom said the outlook for dealing with the new outbreak, the ninth in Congo since the disease made its first known appearance in the 1970s, was brighter than when the West African epidemic was reported.
“It’s concerning that we now have cases of Ebola in an urban centre, but we are much better placed to deal with this outbreak than we were in 2014,” Tedros told health ministers at the start of the WHO’s annual assembly in Geneva.
More than 7,500 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine have been deployed in the effort, which is being funded by a variety of international organizations.
“Vaccination will be key to controlling this outbreak,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said in a statement on Monday.
A DRC government spokesperson said that additional donors had promised 300,000 doses of the vaccine, around 5,400 of which have already been received.