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26 Aug 2019

African nation Burundi has started its Ebola vaccination campaign for health workers and front-line staff working priority areas where the risk of transmission is significant.

The country’s Ministry of Public Health and AIDS Control started the campaign at the Gatumba entry point at the Border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Burundi has received doses of the Ebola vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV) to provide protection against the Zairian strain of the virus, which is currently affecting the DRC. Although this vaccine is not yet approved and its commercial use is not yet authorised, it has been shown to be effective and safe during Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. Further scientific research is required before the vaccine can be licensed.

The vaccine is used for humanitarian purposes to protect people most at risk of an Ebola outbreak. These are health workers working at points of entry into the country, as well as other people potentially exposed to the Ebola virus disease, such as laboratory workers, surveillance teams and people responsible for carrying out dignified and secure burials.

The campaign is part of Burundi’s preparation for a possible case of Ebola. The campaign will be implemented under leadership of the Ministry of Public Health and AIDS Control, with the support of WHO, and with financial support provided by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

“The vaccination of health and front-line staff is a significant step forward in preparing for the response to this disease,” said Dr Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative in Burundi.

“The vaccine proved highly protective against Ebola in a trial conducted in Guinea in 2015. Pending consideration by the relevant regulatory authorities, the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation recommended that the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine be used as part of a protocol on expanded access and compassionate use during Ebola outbreaks related to the Zaire strain, such as the current one in the DRC. In Burundi, we will use it for prevention purposes.”

No cases of Ebola have been reported in Burundi, but preparation remains crucial.


Published: 26 Aug 2019