A medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières is accusing the World Health Organization (WHO) of rationing the Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The group said the global health body is not being transparent in its dealings when it comes to making vaccines accessible to people.
Dr. Natalie Roberts, MSF emergency coordinator said in a statement that “Every day we see known contacts of confirmed Ebola patients who have not received their dose despite being eligible for vaccination.”
“It’s like giving firefighters a bucket of water to put out a fire, but only allowing them to use one cup of water a day”.
Dr Isabelle Defourny, MSF director of operations also added that “We think that upping the pace of vaccination is necessary and feasible: at least 2,000-2,500 people could be vaccinated each day, instead of 500 – 1,000 people as is currently the case”.
“We have a vaccine that is proven to be safe and effective; we have teams ready to be deployed; there is no problem with the cold chain; there are enough doses to cover the current needs and to allow for an extension of vaccination coverage, as recently confirmed by Merck, the vaccine manufacturer; and when people are aware of the vaccine, the vast majority of them want to be vaccinated.”
Lack of transparency
Defourny added though that “Yet WHO is restricting the availability of the vaccine in the field and the eligibility criteria for people to be vaccinated for reasons that are unclear.”
“Even when it comes to frontline health workers – a known, easily reachable population – in a hotspot of the outbreak such as Beni, almost a third of them reported they have not been vaccinated.”
The charity group says the WHO is operating an opaque system relating to the vaccine supplies.
MSF is now calling for an independent committee to be formed to manage Ebola vaccination programmes
The World Health Organization has however denied the allegations, but says there have been shortages of the vaccine, manufactured by Merck.
220,000 people have been vaccinated with rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine produced by Merck that has shown very high levels of efficacy.
Officials in DR Congo say the country’s year-long Ebola outbreak has led to the death of at least 2,000.
According to government data the number of confirmed and probable cases has also hit a milestone of more than 3,000.
The worst epidemic was recorded between 2013-2016 in West Africa. More than 11,300 people died then out of 28,000 who were infected.