WHO – How many must die of Ebola?

In Global, Global Advocacy, Global Featured by Fiona Ip

WHO: What are you waiting for?

Nearly 2,000 lives lost and more are dying without an approved vaccine!

After more than a year of the world’s second worst Ebola outbreak worsening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – which has left 1,986 dead as of August 24 – the lifesaving Merck Ebola vaccine that was first tested in 2014 has still not been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) despite its over 97% success rate.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) recently addressed this shortfall in a letter to David Gressly, the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator, along with other key outbreak issues—including the number of vaccines available in the DRC, plans to expand access to all who need it and what it will take to finally get the vaccine approved.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have already received the vaccine – it’s proven itself to be safe and effective – now it must be mass produced,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “WHO must either stop blocking the vaccine’s approval or be transparent and explain to the public exactly what is taking so long—otherwise, it should be approved immediately.”

AHF applauds the World Bank for allocating $300 million for the response and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for providing $23 million to fund the production of more vaccines—but more can and should be done.

We invite you to read the letter below and sign the corresponding petition urging the WHO and UN to expedite an end to this crisis by approving the Merck vaccine, ensuring availability of the latest successful treatment for Ebola patients and providing security for health workers after dozens have been injured or killed in attacks.

Join the fight – and over 2,000 people who have signed the petition – and help end Ebola in the DRC!

Sign the Petition


August 15, 2019

Mr. David Gressly
United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator
United Nations Mission in the DR Congo – MONUSCO
12 A venue des Aviateurs
Kinshasa, Congo

Re: Clarification regarding quantity and availability of Merck’s Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 

Dear Mr. Gressly,

I am reaching out to you with the hope of gaining some insight into the availability of the highly effective Ebola vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV) produced by Merck, which is currently being used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC}-specifically concerning the actual number of vaccines available on the ground and any plans to bolster vaccination efforts within the country.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) operates clinical sites in Uganda and Rwanda where we provide HIV treatment and services to 136,073 clients, including in areas near the border with the DRC. In light of this fact­and also considering the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa directly impacted our program in Sierra Leone and claimed the lives of two AHF clinicians-we are concerned about conflicting reports on the availability of the Merck vaccine and the slow rate of its rollout.

According to Health Policy Watch reporting, Merck says there are 490,000 doses of the vaccine available for shipment to the DRC, and worryingly, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is indicating that there are as few as 1,000 doses currently in the country.

This poses several significant questions: What is the actual number of vaccines available on the ground in the DRC? If there are 490,000 vaccines available for shipment, but only 1,000 in-country – why are there so few vaccines being delivered to the DRC? Also, what actions are being taken by the UN and WHO to expand access to the Merck vaccine, and what will it take to finally get the vaccine approved? The approval process has been woefully slow considering it was first tested in late 2014.

AHF is, unfortunately, intimately familiar with the challenges of fighting Ebola. In 2014, we donated $1 million in medical personal protection equipment to Sierra Leone. Recently, AHF donated $30,000 in medical equipment and supplies to protect health workers in Uganda in case of further spread of the current outbreak in the DRC.

Thank you in advance for any information you can provide in response to my questions. I look forward to hearing back from you soon. Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or at +1 323-219-1091.


Denys Nazarov, MA
Director of Global Advocacy & Communications
AIDS Healthcare Foundation



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