As part of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Response contingency plan, the UPDF Chieftaincy of Medical Services (CMS) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) has rolled out a grand plan to vaccinate UPDF troops operating in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and those along the border with DRC against Ebola Virus Disease.
The Vaccination campaign will be launched at Mountain Division headquarters based at Muhoti Barracks on August 19.
The Chief of Medical Services (CMS) in UPDF Maj Gen Dr Ambrose Musinguzi confirmed the vaccination campaign to UPDF serving in operation Shujaa at the closure of a 5-day Training for Trainers (ToT) for 15 Mountain Division health workers in Fort Portal.
This ToT follows another training for 30 Divisional health workers in Rapid Response to control any outbreak of infectious diseases in the region which was conducted the previous week. Dr. Musinguzi confirmed that Merck Vaccine for Ebola Zaire is 100% effective and safe for the end users.
“The Vaccine to be applied which is from Merck is 100% effective. We have used it before in Uganda not only to health workers but also in districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo and in some units of UPDF. In all we did not notice any serious adverse effects,” he said, adding that the focus is to vaccinate UPDF operating in Eastern DRC who are at high risk, and those operating in the rear.
“For FARDC, WHO representative in Congo in collaboration with the government of DRC should also consider getting the vaccine because the few dozes got from Geneva were only for UPDF.”
The UPDF Epidemiologist Lt Col Dr. Henry Kyobe Bbosa and the current Incident Commander on COVID-19, Monkey Pox and Ebola Viral Disease said UPDF medical personnel in the Division have been trained as Ebola Rapid Response Team and Vaccinators to contain and control the outbreak.
“We have conducted TOT (Training of Trainers) workshop of 30 experts in different areas who are going to train other medical workers in the field who will in turn be conducting case findings, managing alerts and carry out vaccination. We are also to deploy three mobile laboratories to be able to manage any signal case,” noted Dr Henry Bbosa.
Dr. Kyobe said that there are potentially sporadic unmasked Ebola outbreaks that require contingent measures such that if any of the troops get infected, the rapid response team is able to respond, manage and treat Ebola.
Meanwhile, Dr. Annet Kisakye, the WHO Officer in charge of Vaccination, revealed that Ebola Zaire Vaccine (rVSV^GZEBOV-GP), is effective and was approved by WHO in November 2019.
“This is an added tool to contain and control Ebola outbreak if caused by Ebola Zaire. We have received so far 11,460 dozes of Ebola Zaire that were approved by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine provision and partners to support the country to prevent any possible Ebola outbreak. The first target is front line workers such as health workers, support staff and security forces who are likely to get in contact with suspected Ebola case,” said Dr. Kisakye.
The good side with Ebola vaccine once you are vaccinated with a doze, you are protected against actual infection unlike COVID-19.
Though Uganda has no case registered, we are on high alert; the reason why we are training RRT and finally vaccinate frontline workers. Dr Kisakye advises the public not to stay at home when one has medical concern or prolonged discomfort following vaccination.
Currently, Ebola vaccine is for adults from age of 18 years and above and those who have never got a doze of Ebola Zaire vaccine.