Second Ebola vaccine to be introduced in DRC in mid-October: WHO
GENEVA: Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are to introduce a second Ebola vaccine next month, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The announcement came as the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) accused the WHO of rationing the first Ebola vaccine in the DRC, where more than 2,100 people have died of the deadly virus.
"The health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have announced plans to introduce a second experimental Ebola vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, from mid-October," the global health body said in a statement.
"One of the main problems currently is the fact that in practice the vaccine is rationed by the WHO and that too few people at risk are protected today," MSF said in a statement.
It called for "the creation of an independent international coordination committee" to "guarantee the transparency of the management of stocks and data sharing."
Around 225,000 people have received the Ebola vaccination manufactured by German pharma giant Merck since August 8, 2018, "but this number remains largely insufficient," MSF said.
"Up to 2,000-2,5000 people could be vaccinated every day, against the current 50-1,000 people," MSF director of operations Isabelle Defourny said in the statement.
"MSF's efforts to expand access to the vaccination in collaboration with the Ministry of Health... have come up against tight control imposed by WHO on supplies of vaccines," MSF said.
"The reasons behind these restrictions remain unclear," it said, adding that the current vaccine had "demonstrated its safety and effectiveness."
The medical charity also said that a shortage of the vaccine could not be the reason for the low numbers being vaccinated.
"Merck has just announced that in addition to the 245,000 doses already delivered to the WHO, they were ready to send 190,000 more doses if necessary and that 650,000 more would be made available in the next six to 18 months," it said.
The ongoing Ebola outbreak is the second-worst one in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.
But efforts to contain the haemorrhagic fever have been hindered from the start by conflict in eastern DRC, as well as attacks on medical teams amid resistance within some communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.
The WHO said last week that as of September 17, DRC had registered a total of 3,145 cases of Ebola since the outbreak began over a year ago, including 2,103 deaths.
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