By Nnamdi Okosieme
Barely two days after the outbreak of the Ebola virus, the first reported case since 1994, the government of Cote d’ Ivoire has commenced vaccination of health workers and high-risk members of its population, the World Health organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa has disclosed.
According to WHO the Ivorian government was able to immediately commence the vaccination on 16 August with the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine manufactured by Merck as the vaccine doses that the World Health Organization (WHO) helped secure to fight a four-month-long outbreak in Guinea was sent quickly by Guinea to Cote d’Ivoire.
The WHO said vaccine deployment from Guinea included 2000 doses from Merck that are being used under the “ring strategy” where people who have come into contact with a confirmed Ebola patient are given the vaccine, as well as first responders and health workers. In addition, Guinea sent around 3000 vaccine doses manufactured by Johnson & Johnson which are to be used to boost the vaccination in areas not experiencing active transmission.
Aside from the vaccines, the Guinean government also deployed five vaccination experts and provided monoclonal antibody treatments to the Ivorians, which declared an outbreak after confirming the Ebola virus in a patient who travelled to Abidjan by road from Guinea. The patient is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Abidjan. Effective early treatment, which currently exists, and supportive care can significantly improve the chances of surviving Ebola.
“The Ebola vaccine is a critical tool in the fight against the virus and so it’s a top priority to move rapidly and start protecting people at high risk of the disease. The speed with which Cote d’Ivoire has ramped up vaccination is remarkable and shows that with effective sub-regional solidarity we can quickly take measures to extinguish lethal infections that can potentially flare up into large outbreaks”, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said.
Since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed there has been one suspected case and nine contacts who have been identified and are being monitored. So far, no deaths have been reported and there is no indication yet that the current outbreak in Cote d’Ivoire is linked with the one in Guinea. Further analysis and genomic sequencing will help determine any connection.
To support Cote d’Ivoire’s efforts to control the outbreak, the WHO is deploying experts to join their country-based counterparts to help ramp up infection prevention and control, diagnostics, contact tracing, treatment, community mobilization, and cross-border surveillance. The Organization is also assessing whether additional vaccines will be needed to curb the disease.
In Guinea, the health authorities are stepping up surveillance, carrying out further investigations, identifying contacts in readiness for vaccination, and readying an Ebola treatment centre.
Since the Ebola outbreak was declared in Guinea earlier this year, WHO has been supporting six countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, to prepare for a potential outbreak. This included support in disease surveillance, screenings at border crossing points and in high-risk communities as well as setting up rapid response teams, improving testing and treatment capacity, and reinforcing community outreach and collaboration.
The outbreak in Cote d’Ivoire is the third this year after the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea.