DR Congo to introduce second Ebola vaccine
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo are planning to use a second Ebola vaccine to help control an outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people.
In July, former Health Minister Oly Ilunga opposed its use saying it had not been proved effective.
But DR Congo health officials say the vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, is safe.
This outbreak, in the east of DR Congo, is the second largest on record.
The largest was the epidemic that ravaged parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016, killing more than 11,000 people.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will complement the vaccine manufactured by Merck which has been administered to 225,000 people in the past year, according to a government statement.
But DR Congo’s Ebola response team have not yet said when it will be introduced.
Addressing concerns over safety, the team said, in a statement quoted by Reuters, that “it is a vaccine that other countries already use. Why can’t we use it… to protect our population?”
Leading health experts have said that the second vaccine is safe and could be an important tool in holding back the spread of the virus.
Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson said it had 1.5 million doses available to be deployed.
The current vaccine, which is in short supply, is only being given to health workers and people who might have been exposed to the virus.
The new vaccine could create a protective wall, vaccinating people outside the immediate outbreak zone.
The Congolese authorities intend to use the second vaccine outside the infected areas in Ituri and North Kivu provinces. They first want to protect the small Congolese traders who regularly cross into Rwanda.
There have been concerns that the new vaccine – which requires two injections at least 25 days apart – may be difficult to administer in a region where the population is highly mobile, and insecurity is rife.
The Merck vaccine requires just one injection.
DR Congo has struggled to get the outbreak under control.
Insecurity in the east of the country and people’s suspicions of treatments have hampered efforts.
About 200 health facilities have been attacked in the country this year, causing disruption to vaccinations and treatments. In one incident, family members assaulted health workers who were overseeing the burial of their relative.