GAVI to rollout preventive Ebola vaccine for African healthcare workers

  • World
  • Sunday, 16 Jun 2024

NAIROBI, June 15 (Xinhua) -- The rollout of a vaccination drive to prevent healthcare workers in Africa from contracting the Ebola virus while on duty is in the works, a senior official from GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance has said.

Francisco Luquero, GAVI's head of High-Impact Outbreaks said that inoculating frontline workers in the Ebola-endemic African countries will mark a giant stride in reducing caseload and fatalities linked to the highly infectious disease.

"Our new support is to make sure this specific population of frontline workers that will be involved in future outbreak response can be protected," Luquero told Xinhua during a virtual interview in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, on Friday evening.

According to Luquero, GAVI will rely on the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines to advise Ebola prone African states on how to lay down structures for facilitating vaccination targeting health workers.

Some of the health workers have been vaccinated with doses sourced from the global stockpile, according to Luquero, adding that Guinea Bissau, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have carried out the exercise in the recent past.

He said preventive Ebola vaccination targeting health service providers is informed by recommendations from the WHO affiliated Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE).

He added that inoculating high-risk groups like first responders in countries prone to regular Ebola outbreaks will protect them from severe illness besides averting disruptions in public healthcare systems.

Currently, there are two Ebola vaccines that have been prequalified by WHO, having met safety and efficacy thresholds and their licensing for use by national regulatory agencies has boosted the Ebola war in Africa, Luquero said.

He disclosed that through a randomized clinical trial conducted in Guinea, one of the Ebola vaccines demonstrated a nearly 100 efficacy rate in preventing infections.

Since its discovery in 1976, two major Ebola outbreaks have occurred with the first one hitting the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone from 2014 to 2016 where 28,652 cases and 11,325 deaths were documented.

The second major Ebola outbreak was reported in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda from 2018 to 2020, resulting in 3,481 cases and 2,229 deaths.

Luquero said that Africa is better placed to combat Ebola effectively once governments draw lessons from the two major outbreaks to ramp up vaccination targeting high-risk groups, enhance surveillance, diagnosis, and case management.

In addition, Luquero said the continent should invest in other effective tools to tame Ebola including therapeutics, robust contact tracing, and proactive community engagement.

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