DR Congo launches second Ebola vaccine

Vaccine to be used with another that was administered to more than 200,000 residents

James Tasamba   | 14.11.2019
DR Congo launches second Ebola vaccine

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo

Authorities in the DR Congo launched a second Ebola vaccine Thursday targeting thousands of residents in Goma bordering Rwanda. 

Steve Ahuka Mundeke, the coordinator general of the Ebola response, told reporters that 22,000 doses of the vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) were available for adults and children over the age of 1 in areas of Majengo and Kahembe in Karisimbi Health Zone.

“We have targeted 50,000 people. The official launch will be made next week by the authorities,” said Mundeke. “But technical activities started on Thursday 14 November.”

The vaccine is to be used alongside another donated by Merck that has been administered to more than 200,000 people.

Mundeke said the vaccination campaign was preceded by an awareness drive about the new vaccine.

Immunization teams from the French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, are to administer the vaccine.

The introduction of a second vaccine is not meant to replace Merck vaccine, but to complement and hopefully provide an additional tool in the fight against future outbreaks, according to MSF.

DR Congo’s Minister of Public Health Eteni Longondo told reporters Wednesday the vaccination is part of intensified efforts to contain the disease.

The government is working with international partners to provide response teams with another tool to fight and ultimately stop the spread of this deadly disease, he said.

The J&J vaccine requires two doses given 56 days apart to provide optimal immunity, according to MSF.

It is to be used to protect people not yet exposed to Ebola compared to Merck's which is administered to those who come into direct and indirect contact with an Ebola patient.

Since last August, more than 3,000 people were infected and greater than 2,100 died in the DR Congo in the second largest outbreak but new infections have reportedly fallen since June.

There has been no active transmission of the deadly disease in Goma, with a population of one million people on the border with Rwanda.

Four cases were recorded in Goma in 2019 but no new cases have been reported since August.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the J&J vaccine is meant to expand protection to “at-risk populations” in areas where the disease is not actively transmitted.

In the current outbreak in the DR Congo, since late August nearly 250,000 people have been vaccinated with the Merck vaccine, including more than 60,000 health and frontline workers in the DR Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi, according to the WHO.

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