Rwanda launches Ebola vaccination for healthcare workers

Dr Gashumba said the immunisation exercise will run for five months. E. Kwizera.

The Ministry of Health has launched an Ebola campaign that will see health and frontline health workers immunised against the virus.

The move is aimed at protecting healthcare workers from contracting the virus in case they have to deal with patients who have it.

The announcement comes after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday approved the use of recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus vaccination, an experimental drug for the protection against the virus.

Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister for Health, said yesterday that although Rwanda is Ebola free, the vaccination is informed by the  fact that the epidemic has persisted in neighbouring DR Congo.

In the current outbreak in In DR Congo, 1087 people have been infected with the virus and 60 per cent of them died while 370 were treated and recovered.

The vaccine was donated to Rwanda by Merck, an American pharmaceutical company that developed it.

The support was channelled through the World Health Organisation. It is estimated to be worth about $1 billion.

The vaccination drive starts on April 15 and last for five months, covering 15 districts that medics say are more susceptible to the epidemic.

They are Nyarugenge, Gasabo, Kicukiro, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Nyamasheke, Musanze, Nyabihu, Burera, Gicumbi, Nyagatare, Karongi, Bugesera, Nyanza and Rusizi.

Jean Baptiste Mazarati, the Head of Clinical Services at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said that more than 8,000 healthcare and frontline workers showed their readiness for vaccination.

Mazarati, who is also the leader of vaccination efforts, said that the available drugs can cater for 3000 people.

The yet-to-be-licensed vaccine has proven to be highly protective against the Zaïre strain of the Ebola virus in a major trial.

It was used in the current Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province of DR Congo from May-July 2018.

Though not yet commercially licensed as recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation, the vaccine is being provided for “compassionate use” to efficiently tackle the ongoing Ebola Virus Disease in North Kivu Province of DR Congo.

Approximately 10,000 people have been vaccinated with the vaccine in DR Congo and other countries, especially in West Africa that suffered from the epidemic a couple of years ago.

Dr Gashumba urged citizens to share any information in case they suspect any signs of the epidemic.