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DRC approves Ebola vaccine use

May 29, 2017

The Democratic Republic of Congo has given the green light to an experimental vaccine to combat an ongoing Ebola outbreak. While the vaccine is not licensed, it has shown promising signs in a clinical trial.

Ebola virus
Image: picture alliance/dpa/EPA/Frederick A. Murphy

The Democratic Republic of Congo approved the use of an experimental Ebola vaccine on Monday to combat the ongoing outbreak in the country.

"The non-objection was given. Now there's a Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) team that is arriving (in Congo) today to validate the protocol with the technical teams," Health Ministry spokesman Jonathan Simba told Reuters by telephone.

While there is no licensed vaccine to fight the Ebola virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the Ebola vaccine in question had performed well in a clinical trial in Guinea. The 5,837 subjects who used the experimental vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, were not infected with the virus 10 days after vaccination, as compared with 23 cases of Ebola in the 6,004 subjects who were not vaccinated.

WHO presents Ebola vaccine

The report in the medical journal The Lancet said the vaccine offered "substantial protection against Ebola virus disease."

A source in the country's Health Ministry told AFP a decision on how to deploy the vaccine would be released in the next 24 hours. A vaccine campaign would present a considerable challenge, especially when attempting to transport the vaccine to the remote Bas-Uele province, which has most of the suspected cases of Ebola.

Outbreak under control

The Democratic Republic of Congo declared it was experiencing an Ebola outbreak earlier this month and previously announced it was willing to accept potential vaccines. This is the eighth outbreak of Ebola in the sub-Saharan nation, and the first since an epidemic in West Africa killed over 11,000 people.

The WHO spokesman in Congo, Eugene Kabambi, told Reuters by telephone the situation appeared to be under control. There have been two confirmed laboratory cases of Ebola, and Kabambi said there were 50 suspected cases. There have been three deaths related to this outbreak.

The virus was discovered near the River Ebola in 1976 in the northern part of the country, when it was known as Zaire. The deadly virus is spread by contacting bodily fluids and causes internal and external bleeding and impaired kidney and liver function.

kbd/tj (AFP, Reuters)