Ugandan officials announced on Friday that they will vaccinate health workers near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (Ebola) next week (DRC), currently affected by an epidemic. "The Ebola vaccine will be used for front-line health workers" – those who work in 40 health centers near the border with DRCHealth Minister Jane Ruth Aceng told a news conference.
This will be the first time the Ebola vaccine is used in a country where no cases of this hemorrhagic fever have been reported.
But with the large numbers of people in transit between the two countries, the risk of the virus crossing the border into Uganda is considered "very high," the minister said.
Ten new deaths were reported in four days in the east DRC, bringing the death toll to 180, the Congolese authorities said on Friday.
This is the tenth Ebola epidemic identified in DRC, where the disease was first detected in 1976.
More than 25,000 people have been vaccinated in the east DRC since August. This epidemic affects an area of "high insecurity" due to the presence of many foreign and local armed groups.
Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Uganda, assured that the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine was almost 100% effective and virtually safe.
"There were no major risks reported so far, just a normal reaction to the vaccine," he said.
Ugandan authorities, which currently have 2,100 doses of vaccine but expect to rapidly increase this number to 3,000, ensure that vaccination will be voluntary.
This experimental vaccine was developed as a result of the devastating Ebola outbreak that struck West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, causing more than 11,300 deaths.
Developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, it was considered "very effective" by the WHO, but only against the Zaire strain of Ebola.