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Nigeria, West Africa and Ebola Vaccine

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The recent news making the headlines in the international news feeds is about the Ebola vaccine discovery which is already being tested and found to be effective. This singular action has change the fate of West Africa in curtailing the menace of Ebola Viral Disease which has tremendously weaken the health system in the countries most affected.

In a press statement made available by World Health Organization on 31st July 2015 titled ‘World on the verge of an effective Ebola vaccine. The world body highlighted that results from an interim analysis of the Guinea Phase III efficacy vaccine trial show that VSV-EBOV (Merck, Sharp & Dohme) is highly effective against Ebola.

“This is an extremely promising development,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “The credit goes to the Guinean Government, the people living in the communities and our partners in this project. An effective vaccine will be another very important tool for both current and future Ebola outbreaks.”

While the vaccine up to now shows 100% efficacy in individuals, more conclusive evidence is needed on its capacity to protect populations through what is called “herd immunity”.

“This is Guinea’s gift to West Africa and the world,” said Dr Sakoba Keita, Guinea’s national coordinator for the Ebola response. “The thousands of volunteers from Conakry and other areas of Lower Guinea, but also the many Guinean doctors, data managers and community mobilisers have contributed to finding a line of defence against a terrible disease.”

“The ‘ring’ vaccination method adopted for the vaccine trial is based on the smallpox eradication strategy,” said John-Arne Røttingen, Director of the Division of Infectious Disease Control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Chair of the Study Steering Group. “The premise is that by vaccinating all people who have come into contact with an infected person you create a protective ‘ring’ and stop the virus from spreading further. This strategy has helped us to follow the dispersed epidemic in Guinea, and will provide a way to continue this as a public health intervention in trial mode.”

The Guinea vaccination trial began in affected communities on 23 March 2015 to evaluate the efficacy, effectiveness and safety of a single dose of the vaccine VSV-EBOV by using a ring vaccination strategy. To date, over 4 000 close contacts of almost 100 Ebola patients, including family members, neighbours, and co-workers, have voluntarily participated in the trial. According to the statement the VSV-EBOV was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

In another development African leaders have also step up commitments to curtail Ebola spread. In a press statement shared by Africa Union, African leaders at an Ebola conference in Malabo on Tuesday 21st July 2015 had urged for additional support to get to zero Ebola and support recovery efforts for the affected countries. Areas of assistance from Member States and key partners that were announced include strengthening health systems of affected countries, in particular human resources for health, training and capacity building, resuscitation of the health infrastructure and investment in public health.

Ebola brought about overwhelming challenges in almost every aspect of life in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Health systems almost collapsed and the economies contracted and projected growth declined from 4.5% to 1.3% in Guinea, 11.3% to 6% in Sierra Leone and 5.9 % to 0.4% in Liberia.

“As we move from emergency situation to stabilisation, all three countries are implementing a robust social and economic recovery programme in response to the consequences of the disease and to ensure greater resilience” said H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

The recovery programme which is multi-layered seeks to address health, water, sanitation and hygiene; governance, peace and security; agriculture, fisheries and food security; gender, youth and social protection; programme management and monitoring, and private sector development. It also focuses on sub-regional roads, energy access and information and communication technology.  The programme requires an estimated USD 4.75 billion to cover the economic and financial cost of the epidemic. The funding gap currently stands at approximately USD 3.93 billion dollars.

“We need to secure concrete support for the full establishment and operationalisation of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC), which will be a major step in ensuring greater preparedness and resilience in tackling similar epidemics on the continent” said H.E Erastus Mwencha, the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

We are happy to note that Nigeria is also strategizing to get its rightful position in Africa as it was reported in the meeting. President Muhammadu Buhari has called on all ECOWAS member states to unite and help meet the immediate needs of countries affected by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which has claimed the lives of thousands in Africa. The president made this call when he announced a donation of US$1million in the spirit of “Africa helping Africans” in the Ebola recovery and reconstruction process going on in the West Africa Region.

The donation was announced at the International Conference on Africa’s Fight against Ebola, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in addition to earlier contributions made by the Nigerian government to stem the disease in the region during the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration.

All these are positive news that discovery of Ebola vaccines and its initial promises should be harness by African leaders especially West Africa to ensure all people who are vulnerable receive the vaccine.

1st published in Daily Trust Newspaper on 4th Aug 2015 by  Aminu Magashi Publisher Health Reporters (healthweekly@yahoo.com)  

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