Uganda starts Ebola vaccination for high-risk health workers

The World Health Organization, CDC and other global health organizations say they are anxious about the current Ebola outbreak spreading to port cities like Butembo, which will only exacerbate infection transmission rates.

Jane Aceng, Uganda's health minister in a statement added, "The public health risk of cross border transmission of Ebola to Uganda [from DRC] was assessed to be very high at the national level". Congo shares borders with nine nations, and the United Nations fears the Ebola epidemic could spread to South Sudan as well due to the influx of Congolese refugees.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the EVD outbreak continues to be of grave concern, particularly with geographical spread of the disease to a new area, as well as the increasing number of confirmed cases and contacts to be followed in Beni. "This context puts the healthcare and frontline workers in Uganda at risk of being in contact with an [Ebola] case".

A total of 2,100 doses of Merck's "rVSV-Ebola" vaccine candidate will be administered to the health workers to protect them against the type of Ebola virus strain that is now circulating in some parts of DRC.

A World Health Organization assessment of the situation in DRC released on 22 October, warned of the potential for the virus to spread into Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi, as well as Uganda, and called on these countries to step up readiness efforts.

The rVSV-Ebola vaccine is now being administered in DRC and is demonstrating positive protective results and potency against the Ebola virus-Zaire type.

Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, WHO's Uganda representative said, "In previous [Ebola] outbreaks, Uganda lost health workers, including the renowned Dr Matthew Lukwiya, as they cared for patients".

The targeted districts are Kabarole, Bunyangabo, Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko, where there is an outbreak of the highly contagious disease.

"Therefore, the rVSV-Ebola vaccine is not available to the general population at this stage". Since 2014, about 2,000 people have been killed in clashes between armed groups. Since then there have been regular outbreaks across Central and West African countries. In 2000 and 2001, 574 people were infected and 261 died in Uganda.

The infection is capable of killing 20 to 70 percent of those who are infected depending on the strain of virus.

This latest vaccine to be administered has been developed by Merck and is not yet licensed.


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