An outbreak of the Ebola virus has emerged in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the World Health Organization (WHO) said on 12 May. Congolese authorities have reported nine suspected cases of Ebola infection in the past three weeks; the WHO has confirmed one, and tests are pending on others. Now health officials are considering whether to deploy an experimental Ebola vaccine against the outbreak, for the first time since the WHO gave it preliminary approval in April.
The aid group Medicins san Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders) is discussing a potential vaccination campaign with the Congolese government, an MSF spokesperson says. That would require the approval of the WHO, which has not decided whether to call on the approved experimental vaccine or others in development, says WHO spokesman Tarik Jašarević. Still, he says, “we are taking this [outbreak] seriously because Ebola is always serious”. The last outbreak of the virus, in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, killed 11,325 people; the more than a dozen known outbreaks in the DRC have been less severe.
There are now 12 candidate Ebola vaccines in development. None is yet approved for sale, in part because the vaccine candidates were not ready for testing until the West African Ebola crisis was on the wane. But on 27 April, the WHO’s advisory group on immunization recommended that an experimental vaccine called rVSV-SEBOV be deployed promptly should an Ebola outbreak arise.