Janssen’s Ebola Vaccine Candidate to Finally Launch in the DRC

Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN is a heterologous prime-boost Ebola vaccine regimen
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Africa (Vax Before Travel)

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said ‘they plan to introduce a 2nd experimental vaccine to counter the ongoing Ebola Zaire outbreak.

According to Reuters on September 21, 2019, the DRC team would introduce Janssen Pharmaceuticals’s Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN-Filo Ebola Vaccine at an unspecified date.

Ad26.ZEBOV is a monovalent vaccine designed to provide active specific acquired immunity to the Ebola virus. The vaccine is based on an adenovirus type 26 (Ad26) vector expressing the glycoprotein of the Ebola virus Mayinga variant.

MVA-BN-Filo is a multivalent vaccine preparation designed to provide active acquired immunity to the Sudan virus, the Ebola virus, the Marburg virus, and the Tai Forest virus (formerly known as Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus).

These two vaccines combine to make Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN-Filo.

Previously, SAGE recommended to launch Janssen’s 2-dose Ebola vaccine in May 2019; however, the former health minister opposed its use, stating it was not proven safe or effective and could confuse health care workers and the people.

The current Ebola response team in the DRC said the Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN-Filo Ebola vaccine was safe and noted that it was already being trialed in the neighboring country of Uganda.

On August 2nd, researchers in Uganda announced they are testing Janssen Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN-Filo Ebola vaccine on 800 people.

The Reuters statement said health officials intended to start by offering the Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN-Filo vaccine to ‘Congolese traders who cross into Rwanda and then to residents of the province neighboring the epicenter of the outbreak to create a corridor of immunized people.’

Previously, Janssen’s parent company Johnson & Johnson announced it had ‘built a stockpile of up to 1.5 million investigational Ebola vaccine regimens for potential use in public health emergencies.’

The Janssen vaccine will complement Merck’s v920 (rVSV-ZEBOV-GP) experimental vaccine, which has been administered to more than 225,000 people since this Ebola outbreak began in August 2018. Merck has shipped more than 245,000 1.0 mL doses of the vaccine to the DRC.

In a previous study, the Merck v920 vaccine displayed a 97.5 percent efficacy rate for those who were immunized compared to those who were not.

Merck announced very good news regarding the v920 vaccine on September 17, 2019. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted Merck’s Biologics License Application and granted priority review for the v920 Ebola.

With a second Ebola vaccine soon available in the DRC, hopefully, the long-term death rate from the Ebola Zaire virus will be reduced. 

New research published in The Lancet on September 4, 2019, suggests that Ebola survivors have much higher mortality rates than the general population in Africa.

These researchers tracked Guinean survivors from the Ebola outbreak which began in West Africa during 2014.

When compared with the general Guinean population, survivors of Ebola virus disease had a more than 5-times increased risk of mortality.

The Ebola virus disease, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease that periodically causes outbreaks in several African countries. The virus is spread by contact with blood or body fluids of a person infected with Ebola.

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the DRC. Over the past 40 years, there have been multiple Ebola outbreaks. The worst to date was the West African Ebola epidemic, which caused nearly 30,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths in 2014-2016.

To alert international travelers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the existing Level 2 Travel Alert regarding the Ebola Zaire outbreak in the DRC.

This August 29, 2019, Travel Alert says ‘travelers to this area could be infected with Ebola if they come into contact with an infected person’s blood or other body fluids. It is also spread by contact with contaminated objects or infected animals.’

‘The risk of Ebola infection for most travelers to DRC is low.’

But, the CDC says ‘travelers to the DRC should seek medical care immediately if they develop fever, muscle pain, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising during or after travel.’

Additionally, the CDC’s Travel Alert recommends that all travelers to DRC be vaccinated fully against both measles and polio.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State has identified this part of the DRC as a “do not travel” zone. If you are a U.S. citizen, the State Department suggests enrolling online in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive security updates and information about getting help in the event of an emergency in the DRC.

Vaccine travel news is published by Vax-Before-Travel


Article by
Dani Reiter