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Kenya gets emergency doses of Ebola vaccine

The country will receive funding to conduct immunisation in case of an outbreak

In Summary

• No Ebola case has ever been reported in Kenya, but there is always a risk because of outbreaks in neighbouring countries.

• All other countries supported by Gavi in their routine immunisation programmes will also have access to the stockpile.

A Ugandan health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a man in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda, on June 16, 2019.
A Ugandan health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a man in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda, on June 16, 2019.
Image: REUTERS/James Akena

Kenya will get access to 500,000 doses of Ebola vaccine that can be used in case of an outbreak.

No Ebola case has ever been reported in Kenya, but there is always a risk because of outbreaks in neighbouring countries.

The 0.5 million doses have been secured by Gavi, the vaccine alliance that is also procuring vaccines for Covid-19.

Gavi said the stockpile will be accessible free of charge if there is an outbreak. The country will also receive funding to conduct immunisation in case of an outbreak.

All other countries supported by Gavi in their routine immunisation programmes will have access to the stockpile.

“By creating a stockpile of 500,000 doses of the Ebola vaccine, available to all countries, we can help prevent loss of life and swiftly end Ebola outbreaks in the future,” Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said in a statement.

The stockpile will comprise Ervebo, the vaccine manufactured by MSD, which was partly tested in Kenya.

Preliminary study results showed a 97.5 per cent efficacy and data suggested that vaccinating people who are already infected reduces their chances of dying.

The Ebola virus can cause severe viral haemorrhagic fever in people, killing up to 90 per cent of them.

Gavi said decisions on allocations from the stockpile will be made by a group comprising the World Health Organization, Unicef, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Médecins Sans Frontières. 

 In the last outbreak in the DR Congo, 300,000 people were vaccinated in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, and neighbouring countries, helping end the spread.

“The stockpile of thousands of Ebola vaccines is a ground-breaking development,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore.

“It is testimony to the unrelenting and unprecedented efforts of this global partnership to fight Ebola outbreaks - and it provides an opportunity to learn from this success as we prepare for the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.”

The 2019 outbreak in the DRC spread over to Uganda, killing two people. A Kenyan who had travelled to Uganda developed suspicious symptoms but tested negative.

The Ministry of Health also established Ebola Rapid Response Teams comprising medical specialists in disease control and laboratory scientists who are trained in investigation and testing for the virus.

"The ministry has a total workforce of 229 staff deployed at various ports of entry and in addition 21 Ebola champions have been deployed to support the team," former Health CS Sicily Kariuki said in 2019.

There are currently several other candidate Ebola vaccines at different phases of development that may be eligible for eventual inclusion into the stockpile.

During the recent Ebola outbreak in the DR Congo, advances have been made in the clinical care of patients affected with the disease. To find out what has changed, we hear from Dr. Janet Diaz, WHO Clinical Management Lead. More information: www.who.int/ebola/en/