Vaccination, a central strategy in the fight against Ebola in DRC
A new outbreak in the North Kivu (northeast region)
BENI, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 14 August 2018 — Barely a week after the announcement on 1 August of a new Ebola outbreak in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, vaccination against this deadly disease started in the two epicentres of the outbreak. More than 3000 doses of the vaccine were transferred from the capital Kinshasa to the affected areas to ensure a quick roll-out of the vaccination campaign.
Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in the DRC, was present at the start of the campaign on 10 August in Beni, one of the cities affected by the outbreak.
"Vaccination is a crucial strategy to control the disease. The past epidemic in the west of the country - when the vaccination was first used - clearly demonstrated the importance of the vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease." — Dr. Oyewale
Vaccines are given to health workers who are on the frontline to treat people infected by the disease as well as to people who have been in contact with infected persons, and to the contacts of those contacts as well, to ensure the broadest coverage possible. This so-called ring vaccination helps to contain the spread of the disease. The vaccine is given free and on a voluntary basis.
UNICEF is playing a leading role in providing information on vaccination to the communities affected by this Ebola outbreak. UNICEF works with local authorities to train community workers to raise awareness and share vital information about the vaccine among affected communities and to provide pre-counselling for eligible people.
"For the vaccination campaign to be effective, it is crucial that we engage the local communities. They need to understand how the vaccination is organised and how they can participate. That is why our communication work on the vaccination is so important." — Dr Oyewale
Because the messages are new and complex, it an take some time for the entire communities to take on and apply all the advice and guidance from the vaccination messages. To help support and speed up the process, UNICEF has deployed 12 communication specialists to the affected areas to work with community members on safe hygiene and sanitation practices to contain this outbreak, as well as on disseminating information about the availability and importance of the vaccination. More staff will be deployed in the coming days.
Communication outreach around the importance of vaccinations are part of the overall social and community mobilization that UNICEF and partners are implementing to sensitize the population about Ebola, and to advise them on the best ways to protect themselves against the spread of the disease.