Today marks a turning point in how we deal with Ebola – we are moving from a strategy of containment to one of offering communities protection and care- Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, May 21, 2018 on Twitter.

Vaccination efforts commenced today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as health workers operating in affected areas are being vaccinated today against Ebola and community outreach has started to prepare for the ring vaccination.

ebolaMore than 7,500 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine have been deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to conduct vaccination in the northwestern Equator Province.

The vaccines are donated by Merck, while Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is contributing US$1 million towards operational costs. The Wellcome Trust and DFID have also pledge funds to support research activities.

“Vaccination will be key to controlling this outbreak,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We are grateful for the support of our partners in making this possible.”

In 2017, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) recommended, that for outbreaks of Zaire ebolavirus, the rVSVΔG-ZEBOV vaccine should be used under the Expanded Access framework, with informed consent and in compliance with Good Clinical Practice. The rVSVΔG-ZEBOV vaccine is highly protective against Zaire ebolavirus and is the first with demonstrated efficacy.

“We need to act fast to stop the spread of Ebola by protecting people at risk of being infected with the Ebola virus, identifying and ending all transmission chains and ensuring that all patients have rapid access to safe, high-quality care,” said Dr Salama.

“Implementing the Ebola ring vaccination is a complex procedure,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The vaccines need to be stored at a temperature of minus 60 to minus 80 degrees centigrade and so transporting them to and storing them in affected areas is a major challenge.”

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WHO has sent special vaccine carriers, which can keep their contents in sub-zero temperatures for up to a week and has set up freezers to store the vaccines in Mbandaka and Bikoro. The Organization is deploying both Congolese and Guinean experts to build the capacities of local health workers. The Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and partners are engaging communities to inform people about Ebola, including the vaccine.

According to Deputy Director Salama, 49 Ebola cases have been reported in DRC as of May 19–22 confirmed, 21 probable and 6 suspected cases.