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Ebola outbreak: Importance of gaining community trust during vaccine roll-out - expert comment

The experimental Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV is being deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help stop the spread of the disease.

At this crucial time Dr Heidi Larson, Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, comments on the importance of gaining the trust of the local population.

“In the context of uncertainty, fear, a known deadly virus and an unknown foreign vaccine, it is not surprising that some particularly remote or marginalized communities might turn to their faith-based groups and religious leaders.

 “We have come a long way since the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak in terms of having vaccine candidates that have shown to be effective, albeit it yet-to-be registered for population-wide use outside of emergencies, but they are still very new and we need to build trust.

“As long as there are Ebola reservoirs in animals we will continue to have outbreaks. Our immediate task is to build community trust to help contain the current outbreak, and we must continue with building vaccine awareness and confidence in order to be ready for the next one.”

“The new vaccine is an important additional measure which we hope will help control the outbreak, but equally important are the tried and tested methods of Ebola outbreak response, such as increased hygiene methods and safe burials of those affected by Ebola to prevent spread to family and community.”

Dr Larson leads the Vaccine Confidence Project which in 2016 found that the European region is the most sceptical about vaccine safety, with France the country least confident with 41% of those surveyed disagreeing that vaccines are safe.