As Ebola cases climb, launch of 2nd vaccine in works

Ebola vaccine campaign in DR Congo
Ebola vaccine campaign in DR Congo

World Bank, Vincent Tremeau / Flickr cc

Over the weekend and through today, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported 10 more Ebola cases, including one in a newly affected area in a health zone that hadn't reported a case for several months, according to official sources.

In other outbreak developments, health officials in the DRC said a second vaccine against the virus—the one made by Johnson & Johnson—will be launched in November.

Virus reappears in earlier affected area

Of the 10 newly confirmed cases, 6 were reported yesterday, an increase compared with the past several days, when cases averaged just one or two per day.

The DRC's Ebola technical committee (CMRE) in its daily report yesterday said that, of the six cases, two were in Beni and two in Kalunguta. Mandima and Nyakunde each reported a single case. The CMRE said the case in Nyakunde health zone in Ituri province is in the Maroro health area, which is newly affected. The new case in Nyakunde marks a reappearance of the virus in that health zone, which had gone 294 days without a new infection.

In another worrisome sign, the CMRE said none of people confirmed in yesterday's six cases were on known contact lists.

In a report from Oct 12, the CMRE said both newly confirmed cases were in Mandima. And today the World Health Organization (WHO) online Ebola dashboard notes two new cases, bringing the overall outbreak total to 3,220.

Health officials are still investigating 383 suspected Ebola infections.

Since Oct 11, 4 more deaths from Ebola were reported, raising the fatality count to 2,150.

Launch of J&J vaccine

In its Oct 12 daily update, the CMRE said the first batch of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will include 500,000 doses, will arrive in the DRC on Oct 18 and vaccination will begin in November in two parts of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. The campaign will eventually extend to other provinces.

The CMRE added that the vaccine will target the part of Goma that borders Gisenyi in Rwanda. According to earlier reports, tens of thousands of people cross that border area each day. Also, according to earlier reports, Rwanda was in the process of acquiring doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to vaccinate traders who work along the Rwandan-DRC border.

In April, a WHO vaccine advisory group recommended adding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a prime-boost product known as Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN, as a way to increase supply and test the effectiveness of a second vaccine. The vaccine, designed to afford long-lasting protection, is given in two doses 56 days apart.

DRC health officials green-lighted the use of the vaccine in September.

See also:

WHO online Ebola dashboard

Oct 11 CMRE report

Oct 12 CMRE report

Oct 13 CMRE report

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