Uganda to Receive Ebola Vaccine Candidate Next Week

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The first doses of candidate vaccines against the Sudan Ebola virus are expected to arrive in Uganda in the coming days, World Health Organization has said.

This is just as the WHO said it is boosting efforts to support the government-led response against the outbreak which has now affected nine districts, including three complex urban environments.

A press statement by the global health body on Thursday noted that its committee of external experts has evaluated three candidate vaccines and agreed that they all be deployed to Uganda for a clinical trial against the Sudan Ebola virus—one of the six species of the Ebola virus genus. 

The PUNCH reports that, unlike the Zaire Ebola virus which has sparked most of the recent outbreaks, there are no approved vaccines or therapeutics for the Sudan Ebola virus.

“The aim of the randomised trial is to evaluate potentially efficacious candidate vaccines and to possibly contribute to ending the ongoing outbreak and protect populations at risk in the future. 

“The trial is the result of a collaborative effort, coordinated by WHO with developers, academic institutions, countries’ sponsoring the production of the vaccine doses, regulatory authorities, other experts, and the government of Uganda.

“Supplies of one of the three candidate vaccines are expected to arrive in Uganda next week and the other two soon after. The trial protocol has been conditionally approved by WHO and Uganda and the final approvals are expected soon. Import permits for the vaccines is expected to be issued by the National Regulatory Authority soon. While the trial start date is not certain yet, WHO is working with the Ministry of Health and Makerere University, which is leading the trial to make sure everything is ready and the trial can begin once one vaccine has arrived and all the trial preparations are in place. The two other candidates will be added, as they become available.

“The start of vaccine trials will mark a pivotal moment towards the development of an effective tool against the virus behind the current Ebola outbreak in Uganda,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. “In previous outbreaks, we have seen how effective vaccines have averted the further spread of the virus, helping to quickly contain the epidemic. But it will take time to get trial results and for now, the outbreak can be controlled without vaccines as we can see already with the slowing down of transmission in many of the affected districts.”

Uganda declared an outbreak of Sudan ebolavirus on 20 September. 

As of November 14, 2022, there have been 141 confirmed and 22 probable cases (a total of 163 cases) and 55 confirmed and 22 probable deaths (77 total deaths) reported. Nineteen health workers have been infected with the virus and seven have died.

On November 11, the eastern Jinja district, which hosts Jinja city, became the third urban area—after the capital of Kampala and Masaka city—to detect the virus. Jinja, located on the shores of Lake Victoria, is home to some 300 000 people. While Jinja is now impacted by Ebola, the outbreak is slowing down in six districts, with two dropping from the follow-up list as they have reported no cases in over 42 days.

“The confirmation of Ebola cases in a new district is a concern and places a further strain on the control efforts. With their highly mobile residents and often crowded environments, cities favour the spread of the virus, but Uganda has progressively ramped up the response, keeping pace with the evolving situation. WHO and partners are helping to trace, find, test, and care for people with the virus and work with communities,” Dr. Moeti said. “But with the virus constantly on the move, we must press even harder to stay ahead.”

In support of the outbreak response WHO has deployed 80 experts and supported health authorities with the deployment of additional 150 experts, including over 60 epidemiologists. 

Due to the infectious nature of the Sudan Ebolavirus, Personal Protective Equipment which includes gowns, gloves, eye protection, and medical masks are critical for the provision of safe care to patients.

WHO has also launched an $88.2 million appeal to fight the outbreak and support Ebola readiness in neighbouring countries. So far, only 20 per cent of the funds have been received.

“Dedicated response teams are putting incredible efforts on the frontlines to safeguard communities and require robust support to effectively deliver on this crucial task. We must not fail them,” said Dr. Moeti. “Ebola’s disruptive force is most stark among communities whose lives have been upended and among families who have lost loved ones.”

Copyright PUNCH

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