Uganda health workers get pre-emptory vaccinations against Ebola

LaCroix US

LaCroix US

In a statement the WHO states, "In vaccinating frontline health workers against Ebola virus disease even before Uganda detects a single case, health authorities are being cautious having learnt bitter lessons from previous outbreaks".

The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations vowed Wednesday to do more with Congo's government to help improve security in the country's east, where frequent attacks by rebels are undermining efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 150 people.

Some sick people have refused to go to treatment centres, health-care workers are still being infected, and some people are dying of Ebola or spreading the virus to new areas.

Anthony Mbonye, a professor of health sciences at Uganda's Makerere University, said the vaccinations are crucial to stemming transmission "in a highly endemic belt for hemorrhagic fevers".

Twice-weekly market days - during which some 10,000 Congolese cross into Uganda - have put Uganda at high risk, according to local health officials. The United States - vitally important to the global response in West Africa 2014-2016 - has chosen thus far, out of security concerns, to limit its engagement to the periphery of the outbreak. Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization representative in Uganda, said the vaccine is safe with an efficacy level of 90 per cent and starts working within 10 days from the time it's administered.

The current Ebola outbreak is unfolding in an active war zone with several armed groups attacking health officials, government aids and civilians.

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No fewer than 3,000 health care and frontline workers in the five high-risk western districts bordering the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are targeted.

According to the World Health Organization, no less than 2,100 doses of experimental rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine are now available in the east African country, while supplementary doses have been requested.

In Congo, where thousands of people have been given the experimental Ebola vaccine, a worrying number of vaccinated health workers have been infected.

Last month, deadly violence in Congo's North Kivu province - the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak - left at least 12 people dead. The conflict slows healthcare workers' attempts to fight the virus.

Ebola was first reported in Congo in 1976 and is named for the river where it was recognized.

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