Rwanda planning massive vaccination campaign against Ebola

Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister for Health, speaks at a recent meeting. / Sam Ngendahimana

Rwanda is planning a big vaccination campaign against the Ebola Virus Disease (EBV) for adults, adolescents, and children aged two years living within the vicinity of a possible Ebola outbreak.

A statement released after Thursday’s Cabinet meeting indicates that the Minister of Health, Dr. Diane Gashumba, informed the Cabinet about this development.

By press time Saturday, however, efforts to get details such as when the campaign could start, how many people would be vaccinated, and what vaccine is to be used, from the Minister or media officers under the Ministry were futile.

The latest reports indicate that international efforts to halt the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo have made significant progress, with the virus now contained to a much smaller geographical area that is mainly rural in the east of the country.

The latest Ebola epidemic in the country began in August 2018 and it has killed 2,144 people, so far, according to the World Health Organisation.

In August, Rwanda started talks to acquire at least 100,000 doses of an Ebola vaccine for a mass vaccination campaign. At the time, the Ministry of Health confirmed that the government was fast-tracking negotiations to buy doses of an Ebola vaccine.

Malick Kayumba, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health confirmed recently that the deal was still under negotiations, and stressed that Rwanda was “ready to do whatever is possible to protect its citizens.”

The BBC reported sometime back that more than 60,000 traders in eastern DR Congo who cross the border regularly into Rwanda and Uganda are to be vaccinated.

It was not clear when exactly the mass vaccination campaign would start and the cost associated as well as the type of vaccine to be used but media reports then suggested that the experimental vaccine was backed by international health experts, including the World Health Organisation.

The vaccine in question, the BBC reported, is produced by Johnson & Johnson, American multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical, and is different from the single-dose Merck vaccine that has been used over the past year in DR Congo.
 
The World Health Organisation Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in August announced that they had an Ebola vaccine that is more than 97 percent effective and treatments that are more than 90 percent effective if used early enough.

Earlier, the UN health agency had announced that the co-sponsors of the Ebola therapeutics trial in DR Congo had announced advances that will bring patients a better chance of survival. Two out of the four drugs being tested were found to be effective in treating Ebola.

No case of Ebola has been reported in Rwanda but the government intensified preventive measures soon after the outbreak in DR Congo was confirmed.

In July, the WHO declared the Ebola crisis in the DR Congo a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), urging the international community to step up its support for a response.

The PHEIC is a formal declaration by the UN agency in charge of world health matters of an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease.

In August, Rwanda and DR Congo Health Ministers set up joint strategies to prevent the spread of Ebola.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com