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More than 40,000 people have received the vaccine, by far the largest use of it since a trial in 2015 showed it worked well. The vaccine’s effectiveness in this outbreak has not been formally assessed. But Peter Salama, who heads the Ebola response for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, says, “I think it’s having a major impact.”

WHO, which works in concert with the DRC’s Ministry of Public Health, can’t distribute the vaccine as widely as it would like, however, because of limited supplies, Salama notes. And the obvious targets for vaccination—people who have had contact with cases—have been difficult to identify and reach because of the ongoing conflict; a small number of front-line health care workers have even been caught in the crossfire.

So far the outbreak has tallied some 500 cases, about half of whom have died, according to the DRC’s Ministry of Public Health. It spans a region of the DRC’s northeast that abuts four other countries, and Salama and many others worry about the deadly virus jumping a border, which would require separate response teams and boost the potential for wider spread by infecting people with increased transportation options. Without more financial and personnel support from wealthy countries, the situation could explode into a long-running calamity similar to the Ebola epidemic that devastated three West African countries from 2014 to 2016, warns an editorial published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). A consensus statement from 25 public health and policy experts published the same week in The Journal of the American Medical Association calls the outbreak “exceptionally” dangerous.

…continue reading ‘Ebola Vaccine Is Having ‘Major Impact’ But Worries About Congo Outbreak Grow’

Image via Flickr Attribution Some rights reserved by NIAID

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