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Ebola Vaccinations Restart In Africa

October 13, 2021 • 5:48 pm CDT
(Vax Before Travel)

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Ebola vaccinations began today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) North Kivu Province, where one Ebola case was confirmed on October 8, 2021.

This case lived in the same community where three members of the same family died in September 2021 after experiencing Ebola-like symptoms.

People at high risk, including contacts of the confirmed case and first responders, will receive vaccine doses as the health authorities move to curb the spread of the Ebola Zaire virus.

Already, more than 170 contacts have been identified, and teams are monitoring their health.

Vaccinators are using the "ring vaccination" approach, where contacts and contacts of contacts are vaccinated. 

The WHO confirmed about 1,000 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine and other medical supplies were delivered from the capital Kinshasa to Goma city in North Kivu.

About 200 doses were sent to Beni city near the Butsili health area, where the confirmed case was detected. 

Furthermore, the DRC has more than 12,000 vaccine doses in Kinshasa that can be deployed if necessary.

"Ebola is a virulent, lethal virus that can spread aggressively and fast. But vaccines can create a firewall of protection around cases, stopping the chain of transmission, warning a potentially large outbreak and saving many lives," stated Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a press release.

In addition, the WHO is in the process of shipping five tons worth of response supplies, including therapeutics, personal protective equipment, and laboratory materials, to the DRC.

Beni was one of the epicenters of the 2018–2020 Ebola outbreak in the eastern DRC and is about 50 km from Butembo City, which experienced an Ebola outbreak earlier in 2021. 

Sporadic cases can occur following a major outbreak, but further genomic sequencing is needed to determine if this latest case is linked to the previous outbreaks, says the WHO.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's National Institute of Biomedical Research's central laboratory in Kinshasa is currently testing samples of the confirmed case to identify the strain, and results are expected this week.

rVSV-ZEBOV is a recombinant, replication-competent Ebola vaccine produced by Merck and called Ervebo.

The vaccine's active ingredient is a live Vesicular Stomatitis Virus, in which its surface protein has been replaced with that of Zaire ebola virus disease. Inactive ingredients include recombinant human serum albumin, tromethamine buffer. In addition, this vaccine contains a trace amount of rice protein.

Ervebo is the first Ebola vaccine currently licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent Ebola virus disease (EVD). 

The U.S. CDC has recently issued high-level Travel Advisories for the DRC focused on polio, meningitis, monkeypox, and COVID-19.