Ebola Outbreak: DRC

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 20th May 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development 4:19 pm, 20th May 2019

There are three issues. First, I absolutely agree that we need to work very closely with everyone, including all Members of this House, to combat the very dangerous lies about vaccines. Vaccines are absolutely vital. They have transformed life expectancy around the world. We cannot allow conspiracy theories about vaccines to lead to unnecessary deaths.

Secondly, in eastern DRC, there are two types of vaccines available: one developed by Merck, and one developed by Johnson & Johnson. The trials of the Merck vaccine were very successful in Guinea. We are beginning to roll out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is an issue with how long it takes to make these vaccines; because they still have to be biologically incubated through an egg, it can take between six and 12 months to create the vaccines. Pushing towards 350,000 over the next six months will therefore require enormous drive and effort.

Finally, on burial practices, we must ensure that we are anthropologically sensitive. Family members want to be able to see their loved ones before they bury them, so we have to bring them in wearing hazmat suits and ensure that they see the chlorine spraying of the body. In certain cases, in addition to wrapping the body, we need a clear site so that they can see the face, so that some of the rumours that have been going around about organ harvesting can be dealt with directly. In eastern DRC, this is about reassuring not only the family, but the broader community.