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WHO Aims To Bring Test Vaccine To Ebola-Hit Democratic Republic Of Congo

19 May 2017, 6:09 am EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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Should the government approve, WHO hopes to bring the Ebola vaccine to the Democratic Republic of Congo within one week. This latest Ebola outbreak is proving to be a challenging and costly one.   ( John Moore | Getty Images )

Despite the challenges facing the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), WHO hopes to bring the Ebola test vaccine to the region if the government, as well as the conditions, allow it.

Bringing Vaccines To DRC

There are many challenges facing WHO with regard to the current Ebola outbreak in DRC, and one possible way that they are hoping to control the outbreak is by bringing the previously successful test vaccines to the affected area.

In its previous clinical trials in Guinea, the Ebola vaccine rVSV Zebov-GP proved to be effective in protecting individuals against the disease. In fact, it protected 100 percent of the vaccinated individuals.

However, despite its successful clinical trials, some of the vaccinated individuals experienced adverse side effects such as headache and muscle pain, and the vaccine remains unlicensed by any government authority.

It's worth noting that a limitation of the rVSV Zebov-GP is that it only protects vaccinated individuals from one Ebola strain, which is the Zaire ebolavirus, the very strain of Ebola causing the current outbreak.

A Challenging And Costly Outbreak

DRC's latest Ebola outbreak has so far claimed three lives, with over twenty more lives on the line. The first case of which was of a 39-year old man, his carer, and the man who drove them on a motorcycle. Though the outbreak has been controllable so far, there are many challenges that WHO has to tackle to get the situation under control.

In their latest telebriefing regarding the DRC Ebola outbreak, Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, and Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of the WHO Health Emergency Program described the challenge at hand. To effectively get the Ebola outbreak under control, WHO and the DRC government will likely have to shell out $10 million.

The large cost does not just account for the medicines and vaccines, which they are hoping to release within a week once the government approves, but the remoteness of the location of the outbreak poses a major challenge to WHO as its roads aren't paved, there are no functioning telecommunications, and its health facilities are limited. As such, even if they are able to bring the vaccines into DRC, the challenge will be keeping them at -80 degrees Celsius.

What's more, the location of the outbreak is also one region of the DRC where armed group Lord's Resistance Army has been operating.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Moeti mentioned that a non-profit organization, Doctors Without Borders, already set up a treatment facility in the area. Further, Dr. Salama also believes that the DRC government has the experience as well as the good track record of handling Ebola outbreaks.

The current Ebola outbreak is DRC's eighth Ebola outbreak since 1976.

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