New Vaccine Used in Latest Ebola Outbreak
Last week, health workers from the World Health Organization and their partners began administering vaccines in the northwest regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least 49 suspected cases of Ebola have been reported there since early April and 26 people have died. More than 7,500 doses of the vaccine are now available in the country and another 8,000 doses are expected soon.
The vaccine was first administered in trials during the end of the last Ebola outbreak in 2015. The vaccine is still unlicensed, but shows promise. Out of the thousands of vaccine trial subjects and volunteers, not one became infected. WHO received special permission to utilize the vaccine during this latest outbreak. Officials say use of the vaccine marks a paradigm shift in the fight against Ebola.
Health workers are concerned about the disease’s recent spread to Mbandaka, a large city on the Congo River. Officials are using “ring vaccination” methods, in which a first ring of direct contacts of an infected person as well as a second ring of “contacts of contacts” are vaccinated. Through this method, officials estimated 100 to 150 people can be eligible for vaccination from one confirmed Ebola case. Funeral workers will also be vaccinated. Community burial practices were considered one of the main drivers behind the last outbreak.