23 May 2018

Congo-Kinshasa: Govt Prepares for Mass Ebola Vaccinations

Photo: UNMEER / Martine Perret
Ebola vaccine (file photo).

Preparations are under way for a mass Ebola vaccination campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the Ministry of Health and international aid agencies hold a second day of inoculations in northwestern Equateur Province. The latest World Health Organization estimates report 51 cases of Ebola, including 27 deaths.

The World Health Organization said 33 people, most of them front-line health care workers, were vaccinated against Ebola on Monday in Mbandaka, a city of more than one million people. It said a few high-risk people from the community also were vaccinated during the first day of the campaign.

More than 7,500 doses of the Ebola vaccine have been shipped to the Democratic Republic of Congo. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told VOA he expects the campaign to accelerate and ultimately reach thousands of people.

He said a lot of work has to be done before this complex operation can hit its stride. For example, he said transporting the vaccines and storing them in freezers in affected areas is a major challenge.

"You need to have vaccination teams to be trained so they know exactly what they need to do, how to get a consent, how to define eligibility of a contact and contacts of contacts," he added. "So, all of that has to be done in a very, very short period of time under very difficult conditions."

Jasarevic said a team from Doctors Without Borders will begin vaccinations later in the week in Bikoro, the remote rural town in northwestern Equateur Province, where the deadly Ebola virus was discovered two weeks ago.

The Ebola vaccine is not licensed, but a major trial in 2015 in Guinea showed it gave a high rate of protection against the disease. A so-called ring vaccination strategy is being applied. It relies on tracing all the contacts and extended contacts of a recently confirmed case as soon as possible. More than 600 contacts have been identified.

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