The World Health Organisation and health ministry in Uganda have started vaccinating frontline operatives against Ebola in five high-risk districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A total of 2100 doses of ‘rVSV-Ebola’ vaccine are to be administered to the health workers to protect them against Zaire type virus, the strain that is currently circulating in some parts of DRC.
WHO in a statement said the vaccine is being administered in DRC and has been proven to demonstrate positive protective results.
The move to vaccinate health operatives even before detecting a single case, came as a precaution after a number of health workers died from the virus while treating Ebola patients in a previous outbreak.
This could have been avoided if the vaccine had been available then.
In 2015, the vaccine was given to over 16,000 volunteers involved in several studies in Africa, Europe and the United States.
The vaccine is only used under “compassionate use” although it is not commercially licensed.
Several studies have shown that it is safe and protective against the Ebola virus but more scientific research is needed before it can be licensed.
Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng believes that administration of the vaccine to health care operatives has been the missing link in the country’s EVD preparation and readiness efforts.
“Therefore, the vaccine is not available to the general population at this stage. This is targeted vaccination,” she emphasized.