Kinshasa, DRC | Xinhua | The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) kicked off Wednesday Ebola vaccination in Mbandaka, the capital city of the north-western Equateur Province, to halt the spread of the virus following an outbreak that has claimed two lives since April 21.
Around 200 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine have been shipped to Mbandaka from the eastern city of Goma. More doses will be delivered progressively in the coming days. The vaccination uses the “ring strategy” where the contacts of confirmed Ebola patients are given the vaccine as well as frontline and health workers, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement released Wednesday.
So far, 233 contacts have been identified and are being monitored. Three vaccination teams are already on the ground and will work to reach all the people at high risk. To date, two Ebola cases, both deceased, have been confirmed in the Mbandaka health district in the latest round of Ebola outbreak that was declared over the weekend in the country.
“With effective vaccines at hand and the experience of the DRC health workers in Ebola response, we can quickly change the course of this outbreak for the better,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “We are supporting the country in all the key aspects of Ebola emergency response to protect and save lives.”
The DRC health authorities are stepping up response in addition to the vaccination. A 20-bed Ebola treatment center has been set up in Mbandaka. Disease surveillance and investigation of suspected cases are underway to detect any new infections, with WHO providing material support as well as six epidemiologists to assist in the response.
DRC’s National Institute for Biomedical Research has completed an analysis of a sample from the first confirmed case, results of which show that the new outbreak indicates a new spill-over event from the host or animal reservoir. Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the new outbreak and how it came to infect the first confirmed case.
The DRC has experienced 14 Ebola outbreaks since 1976, six of which have occurred since 2018.