Experts call for reversing the decision to deny the Ebola vaccine to pregnant women

Public health experts from Johns Hopkins University say the exclusion of pregnant and lactating women from an effort to vaccinate people exposed to the Ebola virus in the current outbreak is wrong and should be reversed.

Public health experts from Johns Hopkins University say the exclusion of pregnant and lactating women from an effort to vaccinate people exposed to the Ebola virus in the current outbreak is wrong and should be reversed. They argue it is unfair to deny pregnant and lactating women the experimental vaccine if they wish to take it, given the great risk Ebola poses to them. The fatality rate is 80% or higher for pregnant women who contract Ebola, and nearly all survivors miscarry. The decision was made by the health ministry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), based on the advice of two expert panels that advise it on use of experimental Ebola therapies and vaccines. A total of 111 cases have been recorded since the outbreak was declared on Aug. 1, and 72 of those people have died. A ring vaccination program has been mounted to try to halt spread of the virus. In this program, the Merck vaccine is being offered to contacts of known cases and the contacts of contacts. Anyone aged over 1 year can be vaccinated, except pregnant and lactating women. "The … vaccine will give pregnant women, and the children they are carrying, a chance to live. Without it, most of the pregnant women infected with Ebola, and almost all of their infants, will die," wrote Ruth Faden, Ruth Karron, and Carleigh Krubiner in their commentary.