The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the health authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is currently tackling a serious Ebola epidemic, will be providing vaccination to at-risk populations with a second product in addition to the current use of Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV-GP.
The vaccine chosen for the second vaccination is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and will be provided in two doses 56 days apart. It will administered to at-risk people in areas yet to see active Ebola transmission.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The DRC authorities, in deciding to deploy the second experimental vaccine to extend protection against this deadly virus, have once again shown leadership and their determination to end this outbreak as soon as possible.”
The organisation’s regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti commented: “The evaluation of the second Ebola 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.”
Introducing a second experimental vaccine to attempt to tackle the outbreak is in line with recommendations made in May this year by the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization. The group suggested two options: J&J’s candidate Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN and CanSino-Beijing Institute of Biotechnology Ad5-EBOV vaccine.
J&J’s candidate has shown a robust and durable immune response, as well as being well tolerated in clinical trials to date.
Merck’s vaccine, which was developed during the 2014-6 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, will continue to be administered through a ring strategy to those who have come into contact with someone with a confirmed case of Ebola.
Dr Tedros added: “The Merck vaccine is highly efficacious, and we’ll soon have a second vaccine to increase the number of those being protected against the virus”.
“But vaccine and therapeutics are only some of the tools — the key to ending the outbreak is community ownership. With the communities fully engaged, and with all partners stepping up and rallying behind our common goal, we can and will end this outbreak.”