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Ebola vaccination starts in Sierra Leone to prevent new outbreak | WHO

Freetown, 11 May 2021 – Ebola vaccination kicked off today in Sierra Leone as the country takes proactive public health measures to protect people at high risk of infection in case of any potential cross-border transmission of the disease from the ongoing outbreak in neighbouring Guinea.

The vaccination was launched in Kambia District, a primary international point of entry by road crossing, and of significant economic and commercial importance for Guinea and Sierra Leone. This preventive Ebola vaccination will continue over the coming days in eight other districts sharing borders with Guinea.

No case of the Ebola virus disease has been confirmed in Sierra Leone since the end of the 2014-2016 outbreak. However, health authorities in the country are ensuring that frontline health workers in health facilities where people who may be infected with Ebola would first present themselves for care are protected against the disease. Traditional healers, widely believed by community members to be imbued with healing powers and commercial motor bike riders who normally provide transportation services along the border districts and regional hospitals will also be vaccinated against Ebola to ensure their protection.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is leading the exercise to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccines with technical, logistical and operational support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on compassionate grounds. The vaccines were donated to Sierra Leone in April 2021 through the partnership between the World Health Organization and the vaccine manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

“This strong partnership, led by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is a strategic step towards  protecting the health of the population in Sierra Leone and a clear demonstration of the concern and care for the frontline workers who may be at risk.” said Dr Steven Velabo Shongwe, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone.

About 16 000 people have been targeted for vaccination in the selected border districts, and individuals will receive two doses of the vaccine given approximately eight weeks apart.

In 2016, Ebola vaccination was piloted in Sierra Leone for the first time during the country’s devastating outbreak that resulted in nearly 11,000 cases with some 4,000 deaths including among health workers.

On 7 April this year, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation launched a comprehensive six months Ebola Outbreak Preparedness and Contingency Plan to guide the country’s heightened preparedness and readiness activities. Preventive vaccination of a selected target groups is one of the strategic priority interventions highlighted in the Plan.

Media contacts:
Saffea Gborie
Communications Officer

gboriesa [at] who.int, +232 76 777878

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