The Democratic Republic of the Congo started Ebola vaccinations today in Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur Province, to stop the virus spreading after an outbreak that has claimed two lives since April 21.

Around 200 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine were sent from Goma, in the east, to Mbandaka. In the ensuing days, further doses will be supplied gradually. The vaccine is delivered to contacts and contacts of contacts of confirmed Ebola patients, as well as frontline and health professionals, using the “ring strategy.”

233 contacts have been detected so far. Three vaccination teams have already arrived on the scene and will work to contact all high-risk individuals. Since the outbreak began, two instances have been confirmed, both of which have died.

“We can immediately change the trajectory of this outbreak for the better with effective vaccinations on hand and the experience of health workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Ebola response,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti – WHO Regional Director for Africa. “To safeguard and preserve lives, we are assisting the government in all important parts of the Ebola emergency response.”

In addition to vaccination, national health officials have set up an Ebola treatment cente. The WHO is providing material support as well as six epidemiologists to assist in the response.

The National Institute for Biomedical Research of the country has finished an investigation of a sample from the first verified case, with the findings indicating that the latest outbreak implies a fresh spill-over event from the host or animal reservoir. The source of the latest outbreak is still being investigated, as is how it infected the first known case.

Since 1976, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has had 14 Ebola outbreaks, six of which have happened just this year. The country has acquired homegrown expertise capable of establishing an efficient Ebola response over the years, with the help of WHO and other partners and donors.

It is paying dividends to invest in local expertise. Surveillance, identification, and response to outbreaks have all increased dramatically.

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