Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sunday unveiled a massive vaccination campaign against Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) for their residents who live within the vicinity of a possible Ebola outbreak.
The campaign which has been dubbed 'Umurinzi', which loosely means 'the protector', was launched at the Grande Barrière one-stop border post in Rubavu District and will target people who frequently cross from one country to another in their day-to-day endeavors mainly adults, adolescents and children aged above two.
Rwanda will vaccinate a total of 200,000 locals from Rubavu and Rusizi districts which border the DRCongo while the latter will vaccinate over 500,000 residents from various areas primarily those which have been paralyzed with EVD.
Officiating at the event, Rwanda's Minister for health, Dr. Diane Gashumba underscored that the campaign will boost efforts towards the struggle against EVD which in recent days has claimed the lives of thousands of people in DR Congo.
"Today marks an important step in the fight against Ebola Virus Disease in our communities since the virus or any other epidemic disease does not respect the geographical boundaries of countries," she said, revealing that the vaccine will be given out to those who will voluntarily accept to be the beneficiaries of it.
Gashumba pointed out that the campaign will mutually benefit both the countries and their respective populations to effectively fight the spread of Ebola virus.
She asked the public to trust the vaccine that will be distributed because it has been tested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has worked in various countries across the world.
"This vaccine had been tried in a number of countries such as the U.S, France, United Kingdom, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda," said Gashumba
The Minister, however, challenged the public to put forward sanitation and hygiene practices for them to curb EVD in their respective communities, stressing that the vaccine itself is not enough to eradicate the virus.
"This vaccine does not fully protect you," she warned, "Consistent hygiene, as well as stopping travelling to areas with the epidemic, are only what protect you; if you abide with these, our country will remain healthy,"
Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the coordinator of the Ebola response in DR Congo, said he was confident that the virus will eventually be stopped and prevent because of the political will that the countries are demonstrating through endorsing the usage of the vaccine against EVDA.
"It is thanks to dialogue and collaboration spirit between DR Congo and Rwanda that we now have a vaccine for people from both countries," He noted.
The Ebola vaccine regimens were donated by Johnson & Johnson and other
Partners who include Wellcome Trust and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
Stacy Meyer from Johnson and Johnson firm, said, "I want to express our admiration of the vision and leadership of the Rwandan government in its Ebola preparedness efforts".
53 Rwandans nationals were provided the Ebola vaccine during the campaign after several educative sessions and awareness activities organised in the community.
They welcomed the development stressing that their lives are now protected.
"I believe I will never face nightmares again given that my life is now safeguarded, I was about to abandon my business to DR Congo as I was afraid of getting infected by the Ebola Virus Disease; I am therefore thankful to our government for this lifesaving support," said Saphia Mutesi, one of cross-border traders
The vaccine beneficiaries were told that they will be reminded through text messages to go for the second injection after 56 days.
Rwanda had previously vaccinated a total of 3,000 persons who include medics, community health workers and security organs among other actors who meet a number of patients in their day-to-day responsibilities.