WHO accused of rationing Ebola vaccine in DR Congo
Kinshasa: Aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Monday accused the World Health Organisation of rationing the Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of Congo where more than 2,100 people have died of the deadly virus. "One of the main problems currently is the fact that in practice the vaccine is rationed by the WHO and that too few people at risk are protected today," MSF said in a statement. It called for "the creation of an independent international coordination committee" to "guarantee the transparency of the management of stocks and data sharing". Around 225,000 people have received the Ebola vaccination manufactured by German pharma giant Merck since August 8, 2018, "but this number remains largely insufficient", MSF said. "Up to 2,000-2,5000 people could be vaccinated every day, against the current 50-1,000 people," MSF director of operations Isabelle Defourny said in the statement. "MSF's efforts to expand access to the vaccination in collaboration with the Ministry of Health... have come up against tight control imposed by WHO on supplies of vaccines," MSF said. "The reasons behind these restrictions remain unclear," it said, adding that the current vaccine had "demonstrated its safety and effectiveness". The medical charity also said that a shortage of the vaccine could not be the reason for the low numbers being vaccinated. "Merck has just announced that in addition to the 245,000 doses already delivered to the WHO, they were ready to send 190,000 more doses if necessary and that 650,000 more would be made available in the next six to 18 months," it said. The WHO denied limiting the availability of the drug, saying it was doing "everything possible" to end the epidemic. "We partner closely with the DRC government to reach as many communities and individuals in the outbreak area as possible and are not limiting access to vaccine but rather implementing a strategy recommended by an independent advisory body of experts and as agreed with the government of the DRC and partners."