From the article:
Women who are pregnant and lactating, as well as children under the age of 1, will be offered access to an experimental Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, officials said Wednesday, marking the reversal of a controversial policy that had drawn fire from public health experts.
The decision was made by a committee advising the Congolese Ministry of Health, but received the support of the World Health Organization.
The decision to exclude pregnant women from the vaccination program sparked blowback from some experts, with some calling the policy “indefensible.”
Carleigh Krubiner, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, welcomed the news.
“The DRC’s decision to extend Ebola vaccine coverage to pregnant women is a huge step forward, not only for pregnant women in areas affected by outbreaks but for all pregnant women who may face the threat of Ebola in the future,” Krubiner said in a statement.
To date, there have been 844 confirmed and probable cases in this outbreak, which is now in its seventh month. Of those, 528 people have died.
Krubiner said the policy reversal will not only offer pregnant women the protection of the vaccine, but also provide a critical chance to see how the vaccine, which is being developed by Merck, works in these women. That knowledge will be of benefit in future outbreaks, she said.
Reluctance to offer the vaccine to pregnant and lactating women has stemmed from the fact it is a live-virus vaccine. The virus it contains is not Ebola; it is a livestock virus called vesicular stomatitis virus that can infect, but does not sicken people. A key protein from the Ebola virus has been fused to the VSV virus, which then induces the immune system to develop a protective response when it encounters Ebola.
Traditionally there has been concern about using live-virus vaccines in pregnant women. Krubiner and others have argued that women ought to be informed of the risks and offered the choice.