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Second Ebola vaccine to be in Congo by Oct: WHO

Geneva

THE Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is to introduce a second vaccine next month to combat the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 2,100 people in the country, the World Health Organization said Monday.

The announcement came as the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) accused WHO of rationing the first Ebola vaccine in the DRC. "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.

"This vaccine, which is given as a two-dose course, 56 days apart, will be provided under approved protocols to targeted at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission as an additional tool to extend protection against the virus," Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa, said the second vaccine "will help ensure that we have potentially an additional tool to prevent the expansion of the outbreak and also a potential tool to protect populations before outbreaks hit areas at risk." 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.

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WHO said last week that as of Sept 17, DRC had registered a total of 3,145 cases of Ebola since the outbreak began over a year ago, including 2,103 deaths. Around 225,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine manufactured by German pharma giant Merck since August 8, 2018. But the MSF said earlier on Monday that "this number remains largely insufficient".

WHO denied limiting the availability of the drug, saying it was doing "everything possible" to end the epidemic. The UN's health agency has been pushing for the introduction of the second vaccine, but the DRC health ministry under former minister Oly Ilunga had resisted such a move, citing the risks. AFP