Uganda announced Thursday that it had received shipments of two more trial vaccines to test against a strain of Ebola responsible for dozens of deaths in the East African nation.
Since authorities declared an Ebola outbreak on September 20, Uganda has registered 142 confirmed cases and 56 deaths, but the spread has slowed in recent weeks, sparking hope that the epidemic could be on its way out.
The outbreak has been caused by the so-called Sudan strain of the virus, for which there is currently no vaccine.
But three candidate vaccines — one developed by Oxford University and the Jenner Institute in Britain, another from the Sabin Vaccine Institute in the United States, and a third from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) — will be trialed in Uganda in the coming weeks.
On December 8, Uganda received its first shipment of doses from the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
“On Saturday December 17, we received two more candidate vaccines from Merck/IAVI of 2,160 doses and 2,000 doses from Oxford University/Jenner Institute manufactured by the Serum Institute of India,” Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng told a press briefing on Thursday.
They will be used in a so-called ring vaccination trial, where all contacts of confirmed Ebola patients, and contacts of contacts, are jabbed along with frontline and health workers.
Ugandan authorities said last month that new cases were falling, and the last confirmed patient with the disease was discharged from hospital on November 30.
The absence of active Ebola cases in recent days has held up the vaccine trials, according to international health experts working in Uganda.
Aceng said however that the authorities had already begun enlisting volunteers for the trials, adding that Uganda would take part in a global expert consultation meeting on Ebola on January 12.
The government last week lifted a two-month lockdown on two Ebola hotspots, removing curbs including a dusk-to-dawn curfew, a ban on personal travel and the closure of markets, bars and churches.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an outbreak of the disease ends when there are no new cases for 42 consecutive days — twice the incubation period of Ebola.
Ebola spreads through bodily fluids. Common symptoms are fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.
Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.
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