The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will use a second Ebola vaccine from October on. Previously the use of this means was stopped by the authorities. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the moment of commissioning on Monday, according to AFP news agency.
Since the Ebola outbreak occurred in August last year, the authorities have only had access to only one vaccine. The drug from manufacturer Merck has so far been administered to nearly a quarter of a million people.
The second vaccine was made by pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and has been used for a long time in neighboring country Uganda and Guinea. Unlike the first vaccine, two injections are needed. The second injection follows a waiting period of 56 days.
In July, Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga stated that the safety and effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had not been proven. The politician resigned shortly after being expelled from the team dealing with Ebola. This team now declares that the vaccine is safe.
The then minister also expressed concern about the reactions of the population. Many residents of the DRC distrust the vaccines because of rumors, which are partly due to the fact that both vaccines are experimental. Those rumors complicate the fight against Ebola in the DRC.
Vaccine is first offered to traders
The authorities in the African country will offer the new vaccine mid-October to Congolese traders who regularly travel to Rwanda. This is followed by the provinces around North Kivu, the province where most Ebola infections occur.
The Merck vaccine is used for so-called ring vaccinations. Hereby the people who have been in contact with an Ebola patient are vaccinated. The contacts of these people also receive the drug.
According to the WHO, the Merck vaccine, which offers protection for up to twelve months, is very effective. Research shows that no less than 97.5 percent of vaccinated people are protected against Ebola.
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Lack of clarity about distribution in Tanzania
The outbreak has now also spread to a few other provinces in the DRC. Although a small number of infections have also been detected in Uganda, the virus has not spread any further there.
There is still uncertainty about the situation in Tanzania. The authorities of this neighboring country refuse to share detailed information about suspected Ebola patients, the WHO said last week. There might have been some infections, resulting in one death.
More than 2,100 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak. It is therefore the second largest Ebola outbreak ever. The WHO has spoken of an international health crisis since July.
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