|Jean-Jacques Muyemba (R) and Kasonde Mwinga during the launch of the Anti-Ebola vaccination program.
By: Leonard Kamugisha Akida
Yesterday Sunday 8th December, 2019, Rwanda started a voluntary Ebola vaccination program at its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly virus from its neighbor.
According to World Health Organization – WHO, all countries in high-risk areas, even if not hit by Ebola, are advised to use a new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine.
Diane Gashumba, Minister of health minister, says the program is aiming at protecting Non Ebola patients from acquiring the virus.
“This idea is to protect those with high chances of getting in contact with people living in areas where Ebola has been reported to be active”, she said.
Over 70000People including those working in the health sector, at border crossings, police officers, and business executives who frequently travel between the two countries are being targeted for a priority in the vaccination campaign.
The vaccine, Ad26-ZEBOV-GP, is an experimental drug produced by U.S. pharmaceuticals giant, Johnson & Johnson. It was used for the first time in mid-November in Goma in DR Congo, on the other side of the border.
|A photo of WHO health worker preparing a vaccination lat year in DRC.
So far, there have no confirmed cases of Ebola in Rwanda.
More than 250,000 people in Congo have already been vaccinated using another product, rVSV-ZEBOV, made by U.S. drug company, Merck Shape and Dohme.
The epicenter of the outbreak in DR Congo, which has killed more than 2,200 people since August 2018, is located 350 km (217 miles) north of Goma, in the Beni-Butembo region.
That region sits on the Congo border with Uganda.
Residents on the border say the vaccination provides relief to their health and economy.
Joel Ntwari Murihe, one of the first Rwandans to be vaccinated, said border people have been living in a life of worry because of what was going on in DR Congo.
“The vaccine is an assurance to the safety for our lives and our children’s lives.” he narrated.
Jean-Jacques Muyembe, head of Congo’s Anti-Ebola Efforts and WHO’s representative in Rwanda, Kasonde Mwinga, were present at the campaign launch.
It should be noted that in August, Rwanda briefly closed its border with DR Congo and ordered its citizens not to visit the country when the first Ebola cases were recorded in Goma. However, the border has since been reopened with slow business operations registered.