Uganda steps up Ebola vaccinations

With high fatality rates ranging from 50 per cent to 89 per cent, the highly contagious Ebola virus could cause a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, generalised pain or malaise and in many cases internal and external bleeding.

Uganda is vaccinating against the Ebola virus spreading in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the outbreak fueled by conflict has left at least 189 people dead.

A World Health Organization assessment of the situation in DRC released on 22 October, warned of the potential for the virus to spread into Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi, as well as Uganda, and called on these countries to step up readiness efforts. "This context puts the healthcare and frontline workers in Uganda at risk of being in contact with an [Ebola] case".

This particular vaccine is now being administered in DRC and is demonstrating positive protective results and potency against the Ebola virus-Zaire type. A number of health workers including the renowned Dr Mathew Lukwiya contracted the disease and died as they cared for EVD patients.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and Congo, and gets its name from a river in the latter nation.

If global Ebola containment efforts fail in the Congo, it would mark the first time the virus was not stopped since 1976, when Ebola was first identified. The vaccine was given to more than 16,000 volunteers in Africa, Europe and the United States in 2015, and was found to be effective against the Ebola virus.

This Merck vaccine candidate rVSV-Ebola was also used in the Ebola outbreak in Equateur province in May-July 2018.

This could have been avoided if the vaccine had been available then.

Although several studies have shown that the vaccine is safe and protective against the Ebola virus, more scientific research is needed before it can be licensed. "This is targeted vaccination", Aceng emphasized.

She also explains that the vaccine is only available for frontline health workers who are at high risk of contracting EVD as they manage suspected cases.

"The public health risk of cross border transmission of Ebola to Uganda [from DRC] was assessed to be very high at the national level", said Jane Aceng, Uganda's health minister.

He assured of its potency and ability to protect them effectively.

  • Santos West