A second vaccine has been introduced in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly Ebola virus in the east of the country.
According to the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity, the new vaccine, manufactured by a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is aimed at protecting about 50,000 people over a period of four months.
The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine will be used alongside a vaccine made by Merck which was approved by the World Health Organisation, and distributed to around 250,000 people in the region.
It will be available to adults and children over one, living in two areas of the DR Congo city of Goma, where there is no active transmission of the deadly disease. It requires two doses which will be administered 56 days apart.
The J&J’s vaccine had initially been rejected by DRC’s former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high. But Ilunga’s resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine.
In August 2019, an Ebola epidemic was declared in DR Congo, the conflict-wracked eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri, bordering Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. According to the latest official figures, more than 2,100 people have died in the second-largest Ebola outbreak on record.
Efforts to combat the outbreak have since been delayed by chaos and resistance within communities to preventative measures, care facilities, and safe burials.