Beginning in mid-October, a second experimental vaccine will be used in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as the central African nation shifts strategy in seeking to end a yearlong Ebola outbreak that has claimed 2,115 lives.
“The DRC authorities, in deciding to deploy the second experimental vaccine to extend protection against this deadly virus, have once again shown leadership and their determination to end this outbreak as soon as possible,” said director general Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus in an announcement statement from the World Health Organization (WHO).
His colleague, WHO African regional director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine serves as an additional tool in protecting people from Ebola. The currently used Merck vaccine will continue to be used for all people at high risk of Ebola infection, primarily because of Ebola contacts.
“To date over 223,000 people have received this vaccination during the current outbreak,” said WHO.
There is also no shortage of the vaccines, despite recent concern that there isn’t enough to go around. There is a minimum supply of 10,000 doses at all times of the existing experimental rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, with stockpiles of at least 190,000 doses, and the estimated level needed for the current Ebola outbreak caseload is considered sufficient.
“The Merck vaccine is highly efficacious, and we’ll soon have a second vaccine to increase the number of those being protected against the virus,” Tedros said, but that came with a warning about the complexities unique to the eastern DR Congo.
“Vaccine and therapeutics are only some of the tools,” he added.”The key to ending the outbreak is community ownership. With the communities fully engaged, and with all partners stepping up and rallying behind our common goal, we can and will end this outbreak.”