The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the start of its Ebola vaccination campaign in Côte d’Ivoire. The campaign will target high-risk individuals, including healthcare workers and first responders in Abidjan, where a case of Ebola was identified on 14 August. It’s the country’s first case in 25 years.
The Ivory Coast was able to begin vaccination on Monday, 16 August with 2 000 doses manufactured by Merck.
“The Ebola vaccine is a critical tool in the fight against the virus. It’s a top priority to move rapidly and start protecting people at high risk of the disease,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
“The speed with which Côte d’Ivoire has ramped up vaccination is remarkable and shows that with effective sub-regional solidarity we can quickly take measures to extinguish lethal infections that can potentially flare up into large outbreaks.”
Côte d’Ivoire is the third country to be hit by the virus this year after the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea had earlier outbreaks.
An 18-year-old Ebola patient is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Abidjan.
Effective early treatment and supportive care can significantly improve chances of surviving Ebola virus disease, which historically has a case fatality rate of up to 90%.
Support has been swift
In addition to the confirmed case, one suspected case and nine contacts have been identified and are being monitored. No deaths have been reported. There is no indication yet that the current outbreak in Côte d’Ivoire is linked to the outbreak earlier this year in Guinea, from where the patient had travelled.
Guinea has sent a further 3 000 vaccine doses manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, to be used to boost vaccination in areas not experiencing active transmission.
Guinea has also deployed five vaccination experts and provided monoclonal antibody treatments to Côte d’Ivoire.
To support Côte d’Ivoire’s efforts to control the outbreak, the first since 1994, the WHO has deployed experts to join their country-based counterparts to help ramp up infection prevention and control, diagnostics, contact tracing, treatment, community mobilisation and cross-border surveillance.
The organisation said it was also assessing whether additional vaccines will be needed to curb the disease.
“In Guinea, the health authorities are stepping up surveillance, carrying out further investigations, identifying contacts in readiness for vaccination and readying an Ebola treatment centre,” the global health body said.
The WHO has recently been supporting six countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, to prepare for a potential outbreak of Ebola.
“This included support in disease surveillance, screenings at border crossing points and in high-risk communities as well as setting up rapid response teams, improving testing and treatment capacity and reinforcing community outreach and collaboration.”