Ebola vaccination campaign targets health workers in South Sudan's Yambio

29 Jan 2019

Ebola vaccination campaign targets health workers in South Sudan's Yambio

Phillip Mbugo

Health workers in South Sudan’s Gbudue area are being vaccinated against Ebola, as neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) battles one of the biggest outbreaks of the virus that causes hemorrhagic fever, with an estimated 50% mortality rate.

The vaccination campaign was launched on Monday in the south-western town of Yambio, targeting health workers who are operating along the border with the DRC.

Jormo Enosa, a primary health worker at Nabiapai border said he was relieved to be vaccinated.

“I am happy and confident that with the immunization I have received, now I will have less fear to test people at the border now,” said the health worker.

Supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the campaign is being undertaken by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the government of South Sudan.

Speaking at a press conference in Yambio, the Acting National Minister of Health, Doctor Samson Baba, said after Gbudue, the vaccination campaign would be extended to health workers in other areas along the border with the DRC.

“The vaccination will commence in Yambio Gbudue state and we will extend to other high-risk areas which include Tambura, Yei, Nimule and Juba,” said Dr. Samson Baba on Monday.

Dr. Baba said the crucial vaccination exercise aimed to protect health workers in case of an outbreak, so they would be in position to work without fear, and protected from contracting the Ebola virus.

WHO’s country representative Olushayo Olu appreciated the efforts from all emergency preparedness actors and the local authority taskforce for the tremendous work at all the entry points at the borders.

Mr. Olu stated that WHO would continue to support and provide all that it could towards prevention of the spread of the virus into South Sudan.

The Deputy Governor of Gbudue, Grace Datiro appealed to the country’s Ministry of Health to vaccinate all citizens and wildlife wardens along the border areas.

“To me as a lay person they are very vulnerable to the Ebola virus, and [I wish] this vaccine could be extended to them as well. Not only [is it important] to vaccinate them, but also there is need to train them to be trainers within the localities that they live in,” said the deputy governor.

The National Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization have received 2, 160 doses of the Ebola vaccine for the health workers in all the high-risk areas in South Sudan.

Although yet to be licenced, the vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective from previous trials in West Africa, where Ebola killed more than 11,000 people between 2013 and 2016.

As of January 2019, the outbreak in the DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces is now the second biggest outbreak in history. A total 754 Ebola cases, including 451 deaths, have been reported from DRC, but no case of Ebola has yet to be reported in South Sudan.