The World Health Organization has been given the go-ahead by officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo to import and use an experimental Ebola vaccine in the country, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
“We have agreement, registration, plus import permit, everything formally agreed already,” Tedros told reporters. “All is ready now to really use it.”
Vaccinations could begin by next Monday, he said.
“ We have agreement, registration, plus import permit, everything formally agreed already. ”
The vaccine, developed by Merck in 2016, has proven safe and effective in human trials, but it is still experimental as it does not yet have a licence. It must be kept at -60 to -80 degrees Celsius (-76°F to -112°F), creating huge logistical challenges.
The shot, which was tested in Guinea in 2015 at the end of a vast Ebola outbreak in West Africa, is designed for use in a so-called “ring vaccination” approach.
This would mean that when a new Ebola case is diagnosed, all people who might have been in recent contact with them are traced and vaccinated to try and prevent the disease’s spread.
The WHO said earlier on Monday that the Democratic Republic of Congo had reported 39 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of Ebola between April 4 and May 13, including 19 deaths.
It said 393 people who identified as contacts of Ebola patients were being followed up.
Information about the outbreak in Bikoro, Iboko and Wangata in Equateur province was still limited, the WHO said, but at present the outbreak does not meet the criteria for declaring a “public health event of international concern”, which would trigger the formation of an emergency WHO committee.