News from the FDA/CDC

ACIP advocates pre-exposure Ebola vaccination for high-risk groups


Vaccination against the Ebola virus is recommended for first responders, health care personnel, and laboratory workers deemed at high risk of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

The committee voted unanimously to recommended pre-exposure vaccination with the rVSVdeltaG-ZEBOV-GP vaccine for adults aged 18 years and older who are at potential risk of exposure to the Ebola species Zaire ebolavirus because they fall into any of the following three categories:

  • They are responding to an outbreak of Ebola virus disease.
  • They are working as health care personnel at a federally designated Ebola Treatment Center in the United States.
  • The are working in laboratories or are other staff members at biosafety-level 4 facilities in the United States.

Mary Choi, MD, of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) presented data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and the work group considerations in recommending vaccination in the three target populations.

In clinical trials, the most commonly reported adverse events associated with the vaccine were arthritis and arthralgia, Dr. Choi said, but the duration of those cases was limited to months and did not persist long term.

Pre-exposure vaccination for health care personnel, laboratory workers, and support staff would provide an additional layer of protection, she explained, in addition to existing safeguards such as personal protective equipment and engineering controls at the facility. The work group’s research showed that most of the target population believed that the desirable effects of that protection outweigh potentially undesirable effects, Dr. Choi noted.

Some committee members expressed concerns about vaccination of pregnant women. But the recommendations are presented as “population based, not shared decision making,” said Sharon E. Frey, MD, of Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Several members noted that pregnant women should not be automatically included or excluded from vaccination if they fall into a high-risk population. And the committee agreed that additional guidance in the policy note will help assess risk and that organizations will determine the risk for their employees and whether to offer the vaccine.

The FDA approved the currently available U.S. vaccine for Ebola in 2019. Merck manufactures that vaccine.

The ACIP members had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose.

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