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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has started vaccinating health workers and other frontline responders in South Sudan to avert the spread of the Ebola epidemic from the DR Congo.

A press statement said WHO was working with the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, Unicef, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the South Sudan Health ministry.

The statement said the vaccination began in Yambio, Gbudue State in Western Equatoria, believed to be prone to the Ebola spread due to its proximity to DRC.

It further said that other health workers in Tombura, Yei and Nimule and the capital, Juba, would also be offered the vaccine.

“These are high-risk areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), now experiencing its 10th outbreak of Ebola. The outbreak began 1 August 2018. Neighbouring countries have not reported any cases of Ebola, but preparedness is crucial.”

WHO disclosed that South Sudan had received 2,160 doses of the Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, from Merck, the developer.

The vaccine offers protection against the Zaire strain of the virus, which was the one affecting DRC at present.

“It is absolutely vital that we are prepared for any potential case of Ebola spreading beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“WHO is investing a huge amount of resources into preventing Ebola from spreading outside DRC and helping governments ramp up their readiness to respond should any country have a positive case of Ebola,” he added.

WHO has deployed more than 30 staff members to support those activities.


WHO recently helped train 60 health workers in South Sudan to administer the yet-to-be-licensed Ebola vaccine.

The South Sudan Ministry of Health, with the support of its partners, has established 17 screening points to detect any travellers entering the country, who may be infected with the virus. Nearly 1 million people have been screened to date, majority of them e from DRC.

WHO says Gavi, in addition to making the Ebola vaccine stockpile available, was providing $2 million to support the former’s vaccination in countries neighbouring DRC, including South Sudan.

“Although research is ongoing, the evidence so far suggests the Ebola vaccine is a highly effective tool to help stop epidemics and can be used to prevent this national outbreak from becoming a regional one,” said Dr Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi.

“Vaccinating front-line workers and health workers in South Sudan border regions will be crucial: an outbreak in South Sudan would be deeply concerning,” Dr Berkley added.

Uganda began vaccinating its frontline workers in November 2018. So far, more than 2,600 health workers in eight high-risk districts have been immunised.

In DRC, more than 66,000 people have been vaccinated, among them more than 21,000 health and other frontline workers. Rwanda also plans to vaccinate its frontline responders, according to WHO statistics.

The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has been shown to be highly protective against the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus in a major trial. The vaccine is being provided under what is known as “compassionate use” in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC’s North Kivu Province, as part of the recommendations from the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation.

The vaccine was also used in the Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province of DRC in May–July 2018.