Healthcare and frontline workers operating in high-risk states in South Sudan, which border the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are to be vaccinated against Ebola as part of national preparedness efforts.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the vaccination programme will commence on December 19, with 2,160 doses of the Ebola vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV) allocated to South Sudan with support from the GAVI Vaccine Alliance. The vaccine will be administered to protect against Ebola virus-Zaire, the strain that is confirmed in the current outbreak in DRC. While the vaccine is not yet licensed, it is being used under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the on-going Ebola outbreak in DRC as recommended by the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE).
The announcement comes at a time when the WHO is continuing to warn of a “very high” risk of regional spread of the current DRC outbreak. While South Sudan is on high alert for Ebola, as of 8 December, no confirmed cases have been reported in the country. The implementation of the Ebola preparedness contingency plans in high-risk areas continues, which includes enhancing capacity for infection prevention and control, case management, and for safe and dignified burials.