Fieldset
Chapter 8 : "Your Excellency, I take you at your word. You will be our first to be vaccinated!”

Luis is a nurse with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). He's in the Democratic Republic of Congo responding to the current Ebola outbreak...

Luis is a nurse with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). He's in the Democratic Republic of Congo responding to the current Ebola outbreak...

 
Breakfast and a conversation with my colleagues in Geneva on the strategy to be adapted for the meeting with the Minister of Health. We will go through the office of our Belgian colleagues and we will chat. 
 
At exactly noon, here we all are - our delegation arriving at the Bâtiment Intelligent*. We will argue the importance of starting the vaccination in the spirit of a unified study protocol. But we are preaching to the converted. The Minister takes note. He’s well spoken, with a slight Belgian accent that I find endearing. 
 
The Minister acts as we would hope. He has something elegant about him in his perfectly fitted navy suit. The whole meeting is going very well, in a small committee. He takes up our arguments again, and agrees again, saying that he is ready to sign the necessary amendments. The door is wide open. 
 
We feel the Minister’s concern for his fellow citizens. His face expresses empathy with a capital E. 
 
He volunteers as a candidate for vaccination. I don’t hesitate for a moment: "Your Excellency, I take you at your word. You will be our first to be vaccinated! But following the rules. You will need to give informed consent, and you may withdraw from the study at any time."
 
He smiles with determination. It's a sign. The issues we were uncertain about now seem possible.
 
My colleagues also take the moment to discuss the use of certain anti-Ebola curative drugs in the study that could make a difference. We come out of there with smiles on our faces. 
 
We have a lunch meeting with representatives of Epicentre, the association that provides epidemiological expertise in support of MSF operations in the field. 
 
Next steps: have the amendment signed by the principal researcher and then submitted urgently to the Ethical Review Board of the DRC, and then have it signed by the Minister. We are almost there. 
 
(...) 
 
I pass by the Spanish embassy where I have been asked to give a briefing on the situation and the potential risks.
 
Now we are on our way to the airport. The time the journey takes always varies between one and four hours. It depends whether it's a Friday night or not, if it's raining, if there is a political event. We pass through the neighborhoods of Limete, Massina... 
 
We arrive at the airport. Formalities. We already have one foot in Europe. 
 
See you soon Kin. 
 
I will be back soon.
 
 
* (The name of the building that includes government departments including the Ministry of Health)