Sierra Leone rolls out Ebola vaccine boosters for high risk groups

SIERRA LEONE – Ebola booster dose vaccination has kicked off in Sierra Leone following administration of the prime dose of the Johnson & Johnson Ebola vaccine in May this year.

Frontline health workers, practitioners of traditional medicines or traditional healers and commercial motor bike riders who received the first dose are now being given their second jab to maximize their protection against the disease.

The target beneficiaries have been identified as high-risk groups and selected for preventive vaccination to protect them in the event there comes a cross border transmission of the disease which has re-emerged in West Africa.

On 9 August, Guinea reported a confirmed case of Marburg – an infectious disease with similar causes and risk factors as Ebola, making it the first ever Marburg case in West Africa and was reported from the same location in Guinea where the 2014 and 2021 Ebola outbreaks were confirmed.

Meanwhile, on 14 August, one case of Ebola was confirmed in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire after an individual that travelled from Guinea presented at a health facility in Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast.

With the recent resurgence of the Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea and in Côte d’Ivoire, there is a high risk of outbreaks in Sierra Leone and other neighbouring countries because of the movement of people across borders and other ecological factors. Sustained preventive interventions therefore remain critically important”, said Dr Steven V. Shongwe, the World Health Organization Representative in Sierra Leone.

In addition, health workers who had not been vaccinated with the first dose of the Ebola vaccine, because of the exigency for their second COVID-19 vaccine dose, will now have the chance to be vaccinated with the first dose Ebola vaccine and then wait for their second dose six weeks later.

The Johnson & Johnson Ebola vaccine is administered in an individual who had been vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine if four weeks has passed.

An estimated 16,127 beneficiaries including health workers, and high-risk groups in border communities and the major referral public and private hospitals are being prioritized for this preventive vaccination.

For this booster dose, the Modified Vaccinia of Ankara-Bivarian Nordic Filo donated by Johnson & Johnson in collaboration with the World Health Organization is being used.

The vaccine is safe and efficient to protect against both Ebola and Marburg viral hemorrhagic fevers.

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