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Number of Ebola Cases Spike Again in DRC, Uganda Approves 3 Experimental Treatment

Health workers have got the all-clear to use three experimental Ebola treatments in Uganda

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Ebola, DRC, Uganda
Ugandan civilians queue to be vaccinated against the Ebola virus in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda, June 16, 2019. VOA

Health workers have got the all-clear to use three experimental Ebola treatments in Uganda, a week after the deadly disease spread over the border from Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities said Tuesday.

Two people who had traveled from Congo died in Uganda last week, the World Health Organization said. A three-year-old boy who was sent back to Congo after testing positive for the disease died at the weekend, Congo’s health ministry said.

At least another 1,411 people have died in Congo since August in the second worst outbreak of the disease on record.

“Happy to inform you all that we got clearance from both Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and National Drug Authority to bring in the Therapeutic treatment for #Ebola patients in the country,” Uganda’s Health Minister, Jane Ruth Aceng, said on Twitter.

Ebola, DRC, Uganda
A woman and her child arrive for an Ebola-related investigation at the health facility at the Bwera hospital near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bwera, Uganda, June 14, 2019. Pixabay

The treatments approved for shipment to Uganda were Mapp Biopharmaceutical’s ZMapp, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s REGN-EB3 and Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences, said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

“The protocols for the fourth being submitted. Logistics underway with MSF support for importation of a few courses about 10 each,” he added in an email. The U.N. health agency has said there have been no known cases of Ebola spreading between people in Uganda — all recorded patients had traveled in from Congo.

Four experimental therapeutic treatments are already being used in Congo, it added.

No emergency declaration

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On Friday, a WHO panel decided not to declare an international emergency over Congo’s Ebola outbreak despite its spread to Uganda, saying such a declaration could cause too much economic harm.

“Obviously, the crisis is far from over,” Mark Green, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told a news conference in Nairobi.

Health workers and people who came in contact with infected people began receiving a Merck experimental vaccine in Uganda on Saturday. (VOA)

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Ebola Vaccine Approved in Europe in Landmark Moment

The next step, prequalification by the World Health Organization, is expected within days

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Ebola, Vaccine, Europe
FILE - Congolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 16, 2018. VOA

This week the European Commission gave approval to a Ebola vaccine — an act that the World Health Organization calls landmark moment for global health and a likely game-changer in the battle against this deadly disease.

This is the first time an Ebola vaccine has been licensed anywhere in the world.  The next step, prequalification by the World Health Organization, is expected within days.

Prequalification means WHO is satisfied with the vaccine’s quality, safety and effectiveness.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier tells VOA this is an important step and a great achievement for public health.

Ebola, Vaccine, Europe
This is the first time an Ebola vaccine has been licensed anywhere in the world. Wikimedia Commons

“This will speed up any further process of getting a vaccine into a country for licensing, for manufacturing, for having more quantity of the vaccine whenever we need it or ahead of a presumed outbreak in order to vaccinate health care workers and first-line responders to have them ready for the battle against Ebola,” said Lindmeier.

The vaccine, in its experimental stage, has been and continues to be used in the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  It has been used to protect more than 250,000 people in the DRC’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

Lindmeier says WHO has developed a roadmap aimed at accelerating prequalification and licensing of the vaccine.  This will enable the agency to quickly roll out the vaccine in high risk countries in Africa.

“What does this mean right now for the Democratic Republic of Congo?  Right now, nothing will change because the vaccines as they are available will be used… But it is absolutely great news to see that this has now been approved and will be prequalified,” said Lindmeier.

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Lindmeier says there likely will be a higher demand for Ebola vaccine in coming years.  He says WHO is working with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other partners to develop a Global Ebola Vaccines Security Plan to fulfill growing needs and to ensure vaccine security. (VOA)