Ebola vaccination of people at high risk kicked off today in Guinea as the emergency response was escalated to counter the spread of the virus that re-emerged in the country a little more than a week ago for the first time since 2016.
The vaccination was launched in Gouecke, a rural community in N’Zerekore prefecture where the first cases were detected on 14 February. The Minister of Health and Public Hygiene of Guinea, General Remy Lamah, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Vincent Martin, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Guinea, Dr Georges Ki-Zerbo and the UNICEF Representative in Guinea, Pierre Ngom, were among the officials at the event.
The vaccination uses the “ring strategy” where all people who have come into contact with a confirmed Ebola patient are given the vaccine, as well as frontline and health workers. The launch started with the vaccination of health workers.
“The last time Guinea faced an Ebola outbreak, vaccines were still being developed,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “With the experience and expertise it has built up, combined with safe and effective vaccines, Guinea has the tools and the know-how to respond to this outbreak. WHO is proud to support the government to engage and empower communities, to protect health and other frontline workers, to save lives and provide high-quality care.”
The vaccination began just 24 hours after Guinea received more than 11 000 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine which were sent by WHO from its headquarters in Geneva. In addition, WHO is organizing the deployment of over 8500 doses from Merck, the vaccine’s producer in the United States of America, bringing to around 20 000 doses expected in the initial phase of immunization.
The World Food Programme is providing crucial logistical support by setting up special flights to transport the vaccines and other supplies to N’Zerekore from Conakry.
The quick rollout of the Ebola vaccine is due in part to the capacity Guinea built up during the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. Around 50 Guineans were also deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support the country’s response in the past three Ebola outbreaks and are now leveraging that expertise in their home country.