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The First Round of Ebola Vaccines Has Arrived in the Congo

The first round of Ebola vaccines arrived in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on Wednesday in an attempt to contain the current outbreak of the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Sunday that it was preparing to deploy the first 4,000 doses of the Ebola vaccine, after an outbreak was declared on May 8.

The outbreak is suspected to have killed 23 people to date.

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The new Ebola vaccine was developed by Merck and proven safe and effective in 2016, but is not yet licensed, according to Reuters.

The WHO hoped to keep the virus from spreading to nearby Mbandaka, but Congo’s Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga announced a case in the city late on Wednesday.

This is concerning because the city has a population of about 1 million people and could make an outbreak harder to contain.

Read More: The Democratic Republic of Congo Has Declared Another Ebola Outbreak

"Our current estimate is we need to vaccinate around 8,000 people, so we are sending 8,000 doses in two lots," Peter Salama, WHO's deputy director general for emergency preparedness and response, told Reuters in Geneva. "Over the next few days we will be reassessing the projected numbers of cases that we might have and then if we need to bring in more vaccine we will do so in a very short notice."

There are 42 confirmed cases of Ebola, according to Salama.

Health officials hope the vaccine will keep the current outbreak from spreading.

Read More: WHO Will Deploy 4,000 Ebola Vaccines in the Congo to Stop Outbreak

There are confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola across three health zones of Congo's Equateur province, and health workers have identified 432 people that may have come into contact with it, according to Reuters.

The vaccine will be administered to those who are suspected of having been in contact with Ebola, as well as health workers.

"In our experience, for each confirmed case of Ebola there are about 100-150 contacts and contacts of contacts eligible for vaccination," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters. "So it means this first shipment would be probably enough for around 25-26 rings — each around one confirmed case."

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Other supplies, including 300 body bags for safe burials, were also sent to the Congo, according to Jasarevic.

"We are now tracing more than 4,000 contacts of patients and they have spread out all over the region of northwest Congo, so they have to be followed up and the only way to reach them is motorcycles," he added.

The WHO is moving quickly to avoid a repeat of the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people.

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