The first people to receive the vaccine were staff at a 20-bed Ebola treatment center set up by medical charity Doctors Without Borders in Mbandaka, said Jessica Ilungu, a spokeswoman for Congo’s public-health ministry. An initial shipment of 4,000 doses of the experimental vaccine, developed by Merck& Co., arrived on Congo Saturday. It’s the first time the vaccine is being administered since it showed promising results two years ago in Guinea, in the final stages of an Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people across West Africa.
At least 30 health workers with experience in administering the vaccine traveled from Guinea to Mbandaka over the weekend. The public-health ministry on Sunday said it had now confirmed four cases of Ebola in Mbandaka, including one dead, plus an extra two suspected cases. The WHO on Friday said there was a “very high” risk to public health in Congo. “The longer we wait to mobilize a response, the more people will become infected and the more difficult it will become to contain this outbreak,” said Michelle Gayer, director of emergency health at International Rescue Committee. The WHO said it’s seeking $26 million to fund its response in Congo.