Thanks to the efforts of the DRC Ministry of Health and WHO, close to 220,000 people have been vaccinated with rVSV-ZEBOV, an investigational vaccine produced by Merck that has shown very high levels of efficacy. This number remains largely insufficient though, as shown by the fact that the outbreak keeps returning to areas that have been supposedly covered by vaccination.
Vaccination – especially of healthcare workers – can be scaled up
“We think that upping the pace of vaccination is necessary and feasible: at least 2,000-2,500 people could be vaccinated each day, instead of 500 – 1,000 people as is currently the case” says Dr Isabelle Defourny, MSF director of operations. “We have a vaccine that is proven to be safe and effective; we have teams ready to be deployed; there is no problem with the cold chain; there are enough doses to cover the current needs and to allow for an extension of vaccination coverage, as recently confirmed by Merck, the vaccine manufacturer; and when people are aware of the vaccine, the vast majority of them want to be vaccinated.”
“Yet WHO is restricting the availability of the vaccine in the field and the eligibility criteria for people to be vaccinated for reasons that are unclear,” Dr Defourny continues. “Even when it comes to frontline health workers – a known, easily reachable population – in a hotspot of the outbreak such as Beni, almost a third of them reported they have not been vaccinated.”