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JUBA - 29 Jan 2019

South Sudan begins vaccinating against Ebola

Photo: An image of an Ebola virus BBC/Science Photo Library
Photo: An image of an Ebola virus BBC/Science Photo Library

Health workers and other front-line responders are being vaccinated against Ebola in South Sudan amid a worsening outbreak of the disease in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, WHO said.

The vaccination drive that started on Monday is conducted with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners.

According to WHO, vaccination began in Yambio, Gbudue State, but health workers in Tombura, Yei and Nimule as well as the capital city, Juba, will also be offered the vaccine.

The outbreak began in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 1 August 2018. However, neighboring countries have not reported any cases of Ebola.

As part of preparedness activities, South Sudan received 2 160 doses of the Ebola vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV) from Merck, the vaccine developer. The vaccine offers protection against the Zaire strain of the virus, which is the one affecting DRC at present, said the statement.

“It is absolutely vital that we are prepared for any potential case of Ebola spreading beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “WHO is investing a huge amount of resources into preventing Ebola from spreading outside DRC and helping governments ramp up their readiness to respond should any country have a positive case of Ebola.”

WHO said it has deployed more than 30 staff members to support these activities.

“Although research is ongoing, the evidence so far suggests the Ebola vaccine is a highly effective tool to help stop epidemics and can be used to prevent this national outbreak from becoming a regional one,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “Vaccinating front-line workers and health workers in South Sudan border regions will be crucial: an outbreak in South Sudan would be deeply concerning.”

South Sudan’s Ministry of Health, with the support of its partners, has established 17 screening points.

Uganda began vaccinating its front-line workers in November 2018. So far, more than 2 600 health workers in eight high-risk districts have been immunized. In DRC, more than 66 000 people have been vaccinated – more than 21,000 of them are health and other front-line workers. Rwanda also plans to vaccinate its front-line responders.