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Uganda is vaccinating for fear of Ebola virus spread

08 November 2018

A total of 2,100 doses of the "rVSV-Ebola" vaccine will be administered to the health workers to protect them against the type of Ebola virus strain that is now circulating in some parts of DRC.

Uganda has started vaccinating health workers against Ebola in a border district near the outbreak in Congo, where the highly infectious viral disease has killed 189 people.

The vaccine that is being administered is still experimental but has been shown to be protective in the clinical trials.

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.

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"There are areas that are very hard to access and in dealing with Ebola you need to be able to isolate patients, as well as contact tracing, to be following all of the contacts of different people, and safe and dignified burials", added Tricia Norwood, an Doctors Without Borders official based in Bunia in eastern DRC, near the Ugandan border.

The strategy in Uganda involves an experimental vaccine, which officials say will not be given to the public.

While the vaccine is not available for public use and is considered experimental, it's being handed out under a compassionate use program, the World Health Organization said.

The vaccinations are crucial to stemming transmission "in a highly endemic belt for hemorrhagic fevers", said Anthony Mbonye, a professor of health sciences at Uganda's Makerere University.

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The vaccination programme in this area is driven by fears about the disease spreading across the border between the two countries, the porousness of this border being a big concern, according to Grace Kiwanuka, executive director of the Uganda Healthcare Federation. "This context puts the healthcare and frontline workers in Uganda at risk of being in contact with an [Ebola] case".

The Ebola virus which is transmitted by bats after detection in DRC was named after the Ebola river. Since then there have been regular outbreaks across Central and West African countries.

"The virus has killed 186 people in the North Kivu and Ituri regions, while 88 others have been cured, " the ministry said on Monday.

The infection is capable of killing 20 to 70 percent of those who are infected depending on the strain of virus.

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The vaccine is only used under "compassionate use" although it is not commercially licensed.

Uganda is vaccinating for fear of Ebola virus spread