Experimental Ebola Vaccine to be Used in DRC Outbreak

Cases were reported from the Bikoro health zone (n=29; two confirmed, 20 probable and 7 suspected cases), Iboko health zone (n=8; three probable and five suspected cases) and Wangata health zone (n=2; two probable cases).

According to both Stat and Reuters, the DRC granted the World Health Organization approval to use the investigational recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus-Zaire Ebola virus (rVSV-ZEBOV) in a ring vaccination targeting close contacts of Ebola patients.

The main jobs are checking to see how many people are infected and where; whether there have been past cases that went unreported; making sure people know how to bury the dead safely; and testing and treating people with suspected infections.

An air bridge for supplies and personnel will be established by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) starting 13 May with daily flights scheduled from Kinshasa to Mbandaka and Mbandaka to Bikoro.

"Because it is an experimental vaccine, there are several steps to observe", Jasarevik said.

"We have agreement, registration, plus import permit, everything formally agreed already", Tedros told reporters.

Health experts said the deadly Ebola virus is transmitted to people through direct contact with wild animals and spreads through human-to-human transmission. Tedros met with the president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, and the minister of health, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, to review the steps taken so far.

Ghebreyesus said that the organisation and its partners were also working with national health authorities to contain the Ebola outbreak in DR Congo.

The global health agency announced last week its plans to send the vaccine, developed in 2016 by the pharmaceutical company Merck.

Last week, Peter Salama, deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response at the World Health Organization, pointed out that use of the vaccine comes with many challenges, as it needs to be stored long-term at temperatures between minus 60 and minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 76 to minus 112 Fahrenheit). At this stage, it can also only be used in the context of a clinical trial-plans for which are already in the works. The first known outbreak, in 1976, happened there.

By the time the Ebola outbreak was recognized in Guinea in March 2014, almost 60 people had already died. Here are some of the most recent epidemics. The virus spreads through bodily fluids, including vomit and blood.

Republished with permission from STAT.