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Pregnant, nursing women can now be given Ebola vaccine, UN health agency announces

Hubbard An Ebola survivor cares for her six-month-old son at a UNICEF-supported crèche in Beni, eastern DR Congo, December 2018. (UN PHOTO)

The announcement was issued this week from Beijing after a consultation meeting by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, which the WHO Director-General established in 1999 to provide guidance on the UN health agency’s work.

Last August, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Ministry of Health declared a fresh outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in North Kivu Province.

Noting that these experimental vaccines are “non-replicating or replication deficient,” SAGE concluded that “pregnant and lactating women should be included in the clinical trial protocol.”

“The protocol must include provisions for safety monitoring and for documentation of EVD cases among vaccines, including follow-up of pregnant women and their offspring,” the Group stressed.

According to SAGE, national authorities should choose the vaccine “based on a transparent and evidence-based process.”

Meanwhile, WHO, the Health Ministry and partners continue working to establish the outbreak’s full extent.

As of 16 February, 773 confirmed EVD cases have been reported in one of the country’s most populated provinces – with eight million inhabitants – as well as 65 probable others and 534 deaths.

SAGE recommends that the Ebola inoculation is administered to contacts and contacts of contacts as well as geographically targeted vaccinations to prevent contracting the disease.

The Advisory Group meets biannually to review and critique evidence on immunization and vaccine-related topics, after which it formulates recommendations for WHO vaccine position papers.

vaccines, motorcycles, and football

More than 77,000 people have been reached with a mass vaccination campaign since August. UNFPA provided supplies for this effort, including 10,000 syringes.

UNFPA also helped fortify water, sanitation and hygiene services in affected areas, and is provided more than 50 motorcycles as well as software to support contact tracing – the monitoring of people who have been in contact with infected persons.

And UNFPA has sponsored a football tournament, theatrical activities and a march of more than 1,000 students, all activities supporting the health ministry’s awareness-raising campaign “Ebola, not at home”.

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