As an Ebola outbreak rages on in the Congo with the highest mortality rate in history, AHF urges the World Health Organization (WHO) to expedite approval of a proven vaccine and declare an international emergency.
WASHINGTON (April 18, 2019) With a worsening Ebola crisis in the Congo and a recent report reaffirming the efficacy of a widely-used vaccine, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to expedite the drug’s approval to ensure it is quickly available to all who need it.
A recent vaccine efficacy study, published jointly by the National Institute of Biomedical Research and WHO, analyzed data of those vaccinated between May 1, 2018 and March 25, 2019. The study estimates that efficacy of the Merck Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV-GP is at 97.5% and showed the ability to reduce the overall mortality rate even among individuals who developed the disease.
The outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been raging since Aug. 1 of last year. As of April 15, there have been 1,273 total cases and 821 deaths—the worst fatality rate (62%) of any Ebola outbreak in history. And despite the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee’s “deep concern about the recent increase in transmission in specific areas and the potential risk of spread to neighbouring countries,” a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) has not yet been declared.
Even though the current response has seen tremendous improvements compared to the 2014 Ebola disaster in West Africa that killed over 11,000 people—the situation in the Congo is now the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history—with no end in sight. Armed groups consistently target medical workers and facilities, and DRC citizens’ distrust of outsiders only serves to inhibit efforts. The outbreak also threatens two nearby countries, as its epicenter lies near the borders of Uganda and South Sudan.
“If there was ever a time to accelerate the licensing of a proven vaccine and declare an emergency—this is it,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF President. “Responders have been diligent in combatting this outbreak, but more can and should be done. AHF calls on WHO to do everything in its power to stamp out Ebola in the Congo, including expediting the approval of the rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine and pushing for the declaration of a PHEIC. Anything short of those two things is simply not enough.”