Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo are thinking to use a second Ebola vaccine to further control an outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people.
They intend to introduce the second vaccine to tackle what is being considered a second-worst outbreak of the virus in history. (The largest was the epidemic that consumed parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016, killing more than 11,000 people.)
However, they are yet to say when the vaccine, which is manufactured by the US-based firm Johnson & Johnson, would be interjected.
It will add to another vaccine being produced by another US pharmaceutical giant Merck. This has been applied to more than 220k people since the DRC’s Ebola epidemic erupted in the country’s eastern North Kivu and Ituri provinces in August last year.
The J&J product has been a cause of disagreement among DRC health officials.
Former health minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga opposed its use. According to him, this vaccine had been proven neither safe nor effective. This could create confusion among the local population.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine needs to be injected twice eight weeks apart. Whereas, the Merck vaccine requires a single shot. The Merck product, though experimental, is estimated to be 97.5 percent effective. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it may protect a person for up to 12 months.
According to a statement from the current Ebola response team, the Johnson & Johnson product was also safe for deployment. It is already being used for trial in neighboring Uganda and the West African country of Guinea.
Health officials plan to begin by giving the J&J vaccine to DRC traders who will cross into Rwanda and pass it to residents of the province neighboring the epicenter of the outbreak which will create a corridor of immunized people.