DRC approves use of second experimental Ebola vaccine

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The Democratic Republic of Congo will introduce a second Ebola vaccine next month, the World Health Organization said Monday, as a top medical charity accused the UN agency of rationing doses of the main drug to protect against the disease.

DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed more than 2,100 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

Ebola fighters have been hindered by chronic insecurity in the affected provinces of eastern DRC, but much of the controversy surrounding the response has centred on the use of vaccines.

More than 223,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma giant Merck.

The WHO has for month been pushing Kinshasa to approve the use of a second experimental product, made by Johnson & Johnson, to protect those living outside of direct transmission zones.

The J&J vaccine had 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.