WHO Director General: Press Briefing on Ebola  14 March 2019

Milestones :: Perspectives

DRC – Ebola

WHO Director General: Press Briefing on Ebola  14 March 2019
Audio [48:26]: https://we.tl/t-Jew0cI2DaL
Transcript 11 pages]: https://www.who.int/ebola/WHO-BROLL_Ebola_DR_Congo_presser_UNOG_TEDROS_14MAR2019_final.pdf

TAG [Tedros]:  …I would just like to say a few words on the situation. The latest data from the Ministry of Health; we have 927 confirmed and probable cases, 584 deaths and we have vaccinated more than 87,000 people, including 27,000 health workers in DRC and 5,000 in surrounding countries; more than 400 patients treated with novel therapeutics and we’re happy that people are surviving.

More than 58,000 contact registered and more than 4,200 currently being monitored for signs of illness and there are half as many new cases per week now as there were in January. In January there were 50 cases per week; now we have an average of 25 cases per week so there is a decline in the number of cases per week.

Despite the incredibly difficult situation the outbreak has been contained in 11 out of the [20] communities that have had cases. We have been able to stop transmission in Beni, Mangina, Komanda, Oicha. Now the Ebola virus is concentrated in Butembo and Katwa so the cases are now shrinking in a certain geographic area…

Selected Media Q&A

:: Laurent Sierrot, Swiss News Agency. Last week the president of Doctors Without Borders, Joanne Liu, made a few remarks and among them she said that in the communities there are a lot of people who don’t understand why they can’t access the vaccine and why the vaccine is now just for the people who have been affected or the contacts or the contacts of contacts. Do you think there is still a lack of education in that regard? What steps could you do more of or better in that regard?

TAG Can you repeat the question? I’m sorry.

LA She says that there is a lack of education in the communities towards the need to focus only on a few, a bunch of people affected, contacts and contacts of contacts for the vaccination and that a lot of people don’t understand that. How could things be made better in that regard?

TAG Yes, thank you. That’s the strategy we follow now, what we call the ring vaccination and we vaccinate contacts and contacts of contacts. I can understand that there will be a need to increase awareness of the communities of why we’re doing that. In other areas, by the way, the community has started to understand after our explanation to communities, especially through engagement. I hope we can address this problem too in the Butembo and Katwa area.

:: Cathrine for France 24. I would like to know if the attacks on the different treatment centres have affected your ring vaccination; are you running out of vaccines? That’s my first question. My second one is, how do you collaborate with Uganda, which is the closest country to the two places that you’ve mentioned to Butembo and Katwa?

TAG Thank you. With regard to the amount of vaccines we have, with the current epidemiologic situation and the strategy we follow, the ring vaccination, we have enough stock of vaccines. Not only that, we’re in regular contact with the manufacturer of the vaccine, Merck; I’m personally in contact and they’re doing everything to boost when needed.

…TAG: So by any account there is progress but of course a delicate one and we have to continue to push and push until we finish the job. But one thing I would like to stress on that; you know what the community said; why are you so aggressive in terms of Ebola – they’re right – we have malaria, we have cholera, we have other health problems and you shouldn’t just say Ebola, Ebola, help us with the other things.

That’s why I said in my opening statement, not just to fight Ebola; we will stay there to address the concerns and demands of the community, the other demands because there are other serious problems, not just Ebola and I would like to call upon the international community to link the outbreak control now, Ebola, with developing the health system. That’s a big challenge. Otherwise we will appear as if we’re preventing Ebola from getting into other countries and we don’t care about the demands of the community, the additional demands.

The most important thing here is we care not just about Ebola, we care to address the other challenges the communities face and that’s the challenge not only for WHO but for all the international community, while fighting Ebola to start development, to start rehabilitating the health systems of DRC, to start showing to the communities of those affected by Ebola, we’re with you to address the other problems too, we’re not here only to prevent Ebola because it goes to other neighbouring countries.

We shouldn’t really stay there if that’s our goal. Our goal should be to help them with not only Ebola but with the development of the health system. Sorry I’m taking a lot of your time here but it’s because that’s what I believe. That’s what they’re asking; that’s what we should do, and

the international community should also be prepared to help for the long haul of really developing the health system as per the requests from the community and we should be on their side. That’s what we’re focused on now.

Then on the strategic response plan, it addresses the second issue you raised. The focus should be community engagement. The focus should be local capacity-building and that’s the shift we have already made, and I fully agree if that’s what our partners like MSF say; I really fully agree and that’s what we have already included in our new strategic response plan. Thank you….

:: TO   Thanks. I have a couple of questions, Dr Tedros, about the outlook. The easy first question is, when will you be able to tell us something about the success of the therapeutics that you’re trying? And also, about the future, is it possible that this outbreak, this disease could linger in the area for years, are you preparing for that?

And a related question about vaccines; obviously at the moment you’re using the Merck vaccine and there’s this ring vaccination programme going on but there’s the possibility, I guess, in future that there could be a change in the available options like it could be licensed for a general vaccination campaign or another vaccine could come online. Is there a point at which you can foresee the response changing because you have a new vaccine option available? Thanks.

TAG Yes, I would actually look for that day, when we have a vaccine that can be used at large scale and is easier to manage in terms of the cold-chain requirements that we have now. We’re encouraging institutions to really give us more options and we will be happy to work with those who have additional options to offer so in the future it will be just one of the vaccines in a routine that can be used in health facilities rather than using it on a small scale as in the ring vaccination only…