The authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) gave the green light to the World Health Organization (WHO) Monday, so that it can use an experimental vaccine against Ebola haemorrhagic fever, which has recurred in the northwest of the country.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said vaccinations could begin next Monday.
“We have the agreement, the import authorization, everything has been officially settled,” he said.
The outbreak began on April 22, Dr. Joanne Liu, International President of Doctors Without Borders said in an interview on 24/60. “There are now about forty cases and half of the infected people are dead,” she said.
Doctors Without Borders was already there, thanks to the deployment of epidemiologists and doctors, but the numbers will be strengthened over the next few days, she said.
“We know we have cases in four health zones,” she added. Concerned about this new outbreak, Joanne Liu believes that it is difficult to know the exact extent of the outbreak.
Doctors Without Borders is however encouraged by the mobilization of UN agencies that are already on the ground and by the “leadership” of the DRC Ministry of Health.
“They have know-how and they are there,” said Dr. Liu.
According to the MSF president, one must be sure not to remain in “a state of paralysis and bell-tower battles”. It takes patients and affected communities “at the heart of the answer”.
Dr. Liu does not think we should waste any time waiting for a new research protocol or test for a new vaccine. The important thing is to respond to the population, because each epidemic starts in one community and ends in another, she explains.
Developed by the US pharmaceutical company Merck in 2016, the vaccine has proven effective in human trials. It was tested in Guinea in 2015, at the end of a serious epidemic that hit several countries in West Africa.
At the moment, 4750 doses are available. The biggest challenge, according to Dr. Liu, is the cold chain and the transport of this vaccine, which must be held between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.
Some localities affected by the outbreak are difficult to access and require transportation by motorcycle or canoe. “We will have to work together to make it happen,” said Dr. Liu, saying she was more confident than in the last outbreak.
WHO, for its part, says that the epidemic is not “a public health emergency of global concern”.
Lea Kawalchuck graduated from the University of Winnipeg 2005. Lea is an island transplant, having grown up in Manitoba. After graduating school, it didn’t take didn’t take her long to decide she wanted to stay on the island Lea has written for several major publications including The Vancouver Sun and the Huffington Post. Lea iis our community reporter and also covers world events.