Doctors Without Borders is criticizing the World Health Organization of restricting the provision of the Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of Congo region.
Dr. Isabelle Defourny, who is group’s director of operations, mentioned in an announcement Monday that a minimum of 2,000 people might be receiving the vaccine every day, instead of more than 1,000 who are vaccinated daily at current. She called for WHO to provide more vaccines to medical teams.
The only vaccine now being administered is rVSV-ZEBOV, produced by pharmaceutical giant Merck. It’s being used on a “compassionate basis,” which permits exclusive use of an unlicensed medicine for people in severe conditions.
The vaccine is distributed using a ring approach that prioritizes people at higher threat of infection due to their proximity to somebody previously infected with the virus. This technique is used mainly for unlicensed medicine that requires further clinical research before being mass distributed. WHO reports that greater than 223,000 people have received the vaccine through the current outbreak.
Doctors Without Borders is asking for the establishment of an “an independent, international coordination committee to facilitate more clear management of the Ebola vaccination program,” which the group believes would improve the number of people getting the vaccine.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, wrote in an e-mail to NPR that such a committee might apply only to commercially licensed vaccines. The current vaccine still requires more scientific analysis before being licensed.
Doctors Without Borders’ criticism comes on the same day that WHO announced that a second vaccine complementing rVSV-ZEBOV could be introduced in Congo next month. The new vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, can be supplied to “at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission.”