- Title: Congolese uneasy with plans to deploy a second Ebola vaccine
- Date: 30th July 2019
- Summary: GOMA, DRC (JULY 29, 2019) (REUTERS) JEAN JACQUES MUYEMBE, NEWLY APPOINTED EPIDEMIOLOGIST LEADING THE EBOLA RESPONSE SITTING WITH EXPERTS MUYEMBE LISTENING MAN IN THE GROUP TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (French) JEAN JACQUES MUYEMBE EPIDEMIOLOGIST LEADING THE EBOLA RESPONSE TEAM SAYING: "For the moment there are three possible vaccines which we can use. There was the Russian vaccine, the Chinese vaccine and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and the studies we carried out at our national institute of biomedical research (IRNB) lead us to the conclusion that the J&J vaccine, Johnson and Johnson, was the vaccine that presented us with the most data. Therefore this vaccine was our choice. We can therefore use this vaccine and we think that we will use this vaccine." VICE GOVERNOR OF NORTH KIVU LISTENING GROUP TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (French) JEAN JACQUES MUYEMBE EPIDEMIOLOGIST LEADING THE EBOLA RESPONSE TEAM SAYING: "Until now they are outside and foreign experts, and by foreign I mean experts who came from Kinshasa and expatriate experts who are here and they don't speak the local language. So now we want to put everything in the hands of locals." PEOPLE IN THE STREET WOMEN WALKING IN THE STREET PEOPLE AT BUS STOP PEOPLE EATING (SOUNDBITE) (French) VICAR BATUNGI HANGI, VICE PRESIDENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN GOMA SAYING: "We do not encourage the use of this second vaccine whilst the first one was already approved by the WHO. What we need to do is improve the first vaccine by working on the side effects of that vaccine." (SOUNDBITE) (French) OCTAVE KEYSING, MEDICAL STUDENT AT GOMA UNIVERSITY SAYING: "Personally it worries me but also, as a Congolese I won't take that vaccine because itâ€™s not serious. If the WHO is bringing a second vaccine is it because the first one didn't work well enough? And where is that vaccine from and the other problem is that this vaccine will be experimented for the first time on the Congolese." PEOPLE IN THE STREET (SOUNDBITE) (French) LANDRY KITAKYA, MEDICAL STUDENT AT GOMA UNIVERSITY SAYING: "The Congolese state is not serious. How can a state made up of intellectuals, doctors with expertise, can accept such a thing and make such a decision. It is inconceivable. They are treating the Congolese people as trash can where they can experiment things that were not experimented on in laboratories." PEOPLE IN THE STREET
- Embargoed: 13th August 2019 11:03
- Keywords: Ebola outbreak second Ebola experimental vaccine resignation of Congo's health minister Oly Ilunga
- Location: GOMA, MBANDAKA, KINSHASA, DRC AND UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS
- City: GOMA, MBANDAKA, KINSHASA, DRC AND UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS
- Country: Congo, Democratic Republic of the
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA004APYZYON
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The first Ebola vaccine was developed by Merck and deployed in 2018 in Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to fight the spread of the virus and control the epidemic when Ebola appeared in the east.
Former health minister Oly Ilunga, had opposed using the second vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. He resigned as minister last week (July 22) after being bumped off the Ebola response team.
The World Health Organization recommended the two-dose shot to complement the Merck vaccine which has proved highly protective but is in relatively short supply.
Proponents, including medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and the Wellcome Trust, said the new vaccine could be deployed to areas not yet affected by Ebola to create a firewall against the virus. The WHO declared an international health emergency last week.
Jean-Jacques Muyembe, an epidemiologist and Ebola expert named to lead Congo's response team, dismissed Ilunga's concerns and said authorities would revisit whether to deploy a second vaccine.
"Johnson and Johnson, was the vaccine that presented us with the most data. Therefore this vaccine was our choice. We can therefore use this vaccine and we think that we will use this vaccine," said Muyembe in Goma on Monday (July 29).
The ministry has also considered potential vaccines developed by China's CanSino Biologics 6185.HK and the Russian research institutes Rospotrebnadzor and Gamaleya, but those discussions are less advanced.
Ilunga said the J&J vaccine had not been proven effective and could confuse people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where wild rumours are hampering the response.
Muyembe said scepticism in the population came from the fact that the health teams were from outside the region and that he would now put locals in charge of the Ebola response.
In the streets of Goma, medical students said they did not want the Congolese to be used as an experimentation for large pharmaceutical companies.
Paul Stoffels, J&J's chief scientific officer, denied there were any efforts to secretly introduce the vaccine and said the company had been in full communication with Congolese authorities.
But scepticism about new medicines can resonate strongly on a continent where some pharmaceutical trials have faced accusations in the past of failing to obtain informed consent and providing subpar care to participants.
For example, some U.S. government-funded trials of HIV drugs in the 1990s were accused of double standards for giving placebos to women in Africa when effective therapies existed, a practice that is not generally allowed in the United States and other Western nations on ethical grounds. Researchers defended the use of placebos as scientifically necessary.
The nearly year-long outbreak has infected more than 2,500 people and killed more than 1,700, numbers topped only by a 2014-16 outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,300. This month, a case was detected in Goma, a city of 2 million on the border with Rwanda, heightening fears about the spread of the haemorrhagic fever.
Efforts to contain it have been undermined by mistrust of health workers and violence by armed militias. Treatment centres have been attacked.
Local campaigners say people are scared and confused about the various medicines being used. In addition to the vaccine, four experimental treatments are being given to Ebola patients.
All are still unlicensed, which means they can only be used in clinical trials overseen by Congo's health ministry.
Proponents of a second vaccine argue it can only be tested in a live outbreak, since it would be unethical to deliberately infect trial volunteers. They propose deploying it where the disease has not yet spread, while the Merck vaccine continues to be used to protect contacts of suspected cases.
Since the West African outbreak, J&J has tested its vaccine on more than 6,000 volunteers in a dozen trials, confirming its safety and ability to generate an immune response.
It requires two injections 56 days apart - another obstacle cited by Ilunga - in an area where fighting causes frequent displacement, but should last longer.
Josie Golding, head of epidemics at the Wellcome Trust, said "we could run out of Merck vaccines" if the outbreak extends into a second year. Health authorities have already begun using smaller doses to ration supplies.
Congo's health ministry disputes there is a shortage of the Merck vaccine. The company said it expects to have about 900,000 doses available over the next six to 18 months, in addition to the 195,000 doses it has already donated.
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