Uganda begins Ebola vaccination for high-risk health workers

It is the tenth outbreak of Ebola in the country, then called Zaire, where the disease was first detected in 1976.

A total of 2,100 doses of the "rVSV-Ebola" vaccine will be administered to the health workers to protect them against the type of Ebola virus strain that is now circulating in some parts of DRC.

In the latest on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the DRC health ministry has reported a total of 300 cases of hemorrhagic fever in the region, 265 confirmed and 35 probable.

It is the first time an Ebola outbreak has occurred in DRC's far northeast, where multiple rebel groups are active.

In vaccinating frontline health workers against EVD, Uganda health authorities are cautiously hoping to prevent another outbreak.

No Ebola cases have been reported in Uganda, but the World Health Organization said communities on the DRC-Uganda border will likely be infected soon.

In 2015, the rVSV-Ebola vaccine was given to more than 16,000 volunteers involved in several studies in Africa, Europe and the United States where it was found to be safe and protective against the Ebola virus.

Although the "investigational vaccine" has not yet been licensed it was used in previous Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone and DR Congo at the recommendation of the WHO's group of experts.

"Currently 2,100 doses of the rVSV vaccine are available", Aceng said, with plans in place to increase that to 3,000.

In this strategy, informed and written consent is needed from people, for them to be vaccinated which in turn may limit mass media coverage of the exercise.

Uganda shares a border with Congo, and both nations experience a robust movement of people between them as a result of trade and the region's high population.

"The vaccine is not available to the general population at this stage".

The five districts prone to the disease include Ntoroko where the drive will start from on Wednesday, Kabarole, Bunyangabu, Kasese, and Buindibugyo.

"On top of close contacts of Ebola victims, frontline health workers face a very high risk of infection of Ebola as they care for patients, " Woldemariam said. Risk communication, community engagement and cross-border surveillance are also going on in many districts.

  • Delores Daniels