Congo will introduce a second vaccine against Ebola from mid-October, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, as the central African country continues to battle what has become the second-worst outbreak of the disease in history.
“The DRC authorities … have once again shown leadership and their determination to end this outbreak as soon as possible,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
The haemorrhagic fever has infected more than 3,000 people and killed at least 2,000 since an outbreak was declared 13 months ago in Congo’s volatile eastern region.
The WHO declared it an international health emergency in July, after the disease spread to Goma, a major urban centre near the border with Rwanda.
The second vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, will be given to “at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission as an additional tool to extend protection against the virus,” the WHO said.
Congolese authorities have said they want to target small-scale Congolese traders who cross into Rwanda.
The current vaccine, produced by Merck, has been given to more than 223,000 people at high risk of Ebola, including those who had contact with an infected person.
Congo’s former health minister, Oly Ilunga, had in July criticised what he said was pressure to use a new Ebola vaccine to try to stem the spread of the virus.
He is now under investigation for allegedly embezzling Ebola funds.
Curbing the spread of the virus in eastern Congo has proved difficult because of the numerous rebel groups operating in the area and a local population suspicious of health workers.