DR Congo authorizes the use of unlicensed Ebola vaccine due to its effectiveness


Following quite a number of deaths in the country, Democratic Republic of Congo’s Health Ministry has approved the use of a new Ebola vaccine to counter an outbreak of Ebola in its northeast which has killed four people, a spokesman said on Monday.

“The non-objection was given. Now there’s a Medecins Sans Frontieres team that is arriving [in Congo] today to validate the protocol with the technical teams,” Jonathan Simba, a Health Ministry spokesman, said by telephone.

This vaccine is not licensed by the World Health Organisation but has reportedly been confirmed for its efficient and effective prevention of Ebola. The vaccine, known as RVSV-ZEBOV was developed by Merck. It is not yet licensed but was shown to be highly protective against Ebola in clinical trials published last December. Congolese are apparently not concerned with its license but rather with its effectiveness.

The same unlicensed vaccine was on trial in Guinea in 2015, involving some 11,841 people and it was able to curb the spread of Ebola in the country.

The latest reports from the World Health Organization indicates that as of May 27, 2017 there were a total of two confirmed cases, four probable deaths and sixteen suspected cases.

“A vaccine makes a huge difference if it is efficacious. It is an added tool that can be deployed so that it can contribute as well as use other measures to limit the side of infection,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti in an interview with the media.

“I think it could be beneficial in the outbreak itself and contributing to having a clearer picture of this vaccine so that it can be licensed and used more broadly. It’s a huge opportunity,” She added.

As of Friday, Congo had registered 52 total suspected cases, including two that have been confirmed, the World Health Organization spokesman in Congo, Eugene Kabambi, said by telephone, adding that the situation appears to be under control. With the help of the unlicensed vaccine, many Congolese have survived getting infected with Ebola.

It has been reported that congolese will organise a vaccination campaign that would present logistical challenges in Congo’s isolated northeastern forests, including transporting and storing the vaccine in special containers at the required minus 80 degrees Celsius. Many Congolese believe that the license of the vaccine makes no difference, the most important is its efficiency.

Finally, the DRC government, medical charity group Doctors Without Borders with support from the WHO are working on a detailed plan to offer access to the vaccine. The execution of the plan had started as Congolese continue to take in the vaccine for safety.

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