6 April 2019

Rwanda: Govt to Vaccinate Front-Line Health-Workers Against Ebola

Photo: World Health Organisation
Health workers practice proper donning of protective gear during the training on vaccination against Ebola.

Kigali — The Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization and other partners will launch vaccination of health care and frontline health workers to prevent them against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in case they have to deal with patients contaminated by the virus. The activity begins on Monday, April 15, 2019 in Rubavu and other districts in high risk zone located near boarders with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This latest outbreak of Ebola is affecting North-Eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which border Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan. Potential high risk factors for transmission of Ebola virus disease (EVD) at the national and regional levels include the transportation links between the affected areas, the rest of the country, and neighbouring countries; the internal displacement of populations; and displacement of Congolese refugees to neighbouring countries. Based on this context, the public health risk was assessed to be high at the national and regional levels.

Therefore, as part of the ongoing efforts to prevent its population as well as other people living in Rwanda from contaminating the Ebola Virus, the Ministry of Health decided to vaccinate health care and frontline workers in health facilities at the border with the current DRC Ebola outbreak, as well as to plan for ring vaccination to vaccinate those who are most likely to be infected in the event of Ebola case.

About 7,949 health care workers and frontline workers are the potential population for vaccination health workers that will be targeted from the health facilities near the border with the DRC isolation Units/Ebola Treatment Unit, health facilities identified through risk assessment with possibility of receiving many patients from the DRC.

The Rwandan Minister of Health, Dr. Diane Gashumba says that Ebola vaccine to frontline health care worker is a good move for EVD prevention and preparedness, "This Ebola Virus vaccine assures readiness as far as Ebola preparedness is concerned. The vaccine will not target the general population but the frontline health workers who may be at high risk in case of Ebola outbreak."

The districts in high risk zone of EVD targeted for vaccination include Nyarugenge, Gasabo, Kicukiro, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Nyamasheke, Musanze, Nyabihu, Burera, Gicumbi, Nyagatare, Karongi, Bugesera, Nyanza and Rusizi.

The yet-to-be-licensed rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has proven to be highly protective against the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus in a major trial. It was used in the Ebola outbreak in Equateur province of DRC from May-July 2018. Though not yet commercially licensed and as recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, the vaccine is being provided for "compassionate use" to efficiently tackle the ongoing Ebola Virus Disease in North Kivu province of DRC. More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated in DRC, neighbouring countries and other countries affected by Ebola in last years.

As part of Ebola Virus Disease preparedness, Rwanda has undertaken preparedness activities, including strengthening coordination at central level, community awareness, identifying first responders and capacity building for case detection, management and infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement activities.

Likewise, Rwanda has undertaken to enhance monitoring and screening, especially at Ports of Entry (PoE) and at Refugee Camps, development of an Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Rubavu District; Training of front line health care staff in the 10 priority districts in safe EVD clinical techniques; 181Health Care Workers covering all healthcare facilities in the priority areas have now been trained in case management Standard Operating Procedures; reviewing of healthcare provision and surveillance at transit centres, district hospitals, Ebola Treatment Centre and Ports of Entries. Ebola full simulation exercises were conducted in Kanombe Military Hospital, Gihundwe District hospital, Kamembe International Airport, and Rugerero Ebola treatment Centre to test Rwanda's preparedness in response to a confirmed case, which will include Emergency Operations Centre activation, testing surveillance, case management and labs.

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