Sep 23, 2019

Congo approves second Ebola vaccine to fight the deadly virus

Preparing an Ebola vaccination in Goma in August. Photo: Augustin Wamenya/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has decided to allow a second Ebola vaccine to be distributed to certain areas of its country — a move that the World Health Organization praised as a key tool to halting further expansion of the deadly virus.

Why it matters: The DRC initially resisted some of the recommendations from the WHO, including one to approve testing another experimental vaccine. But DRC's new leader of the Ebola response in the Ministry of Health is trying new activities to halt the outbreak, which as of Sept. 19 killed about 2,111 people and infected roughly 3,157 people (in both probable and confirmed infections).

“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.”
— WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in statement

Details: The DRC will introduce the second experimental vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson starting in mid-October, the WHO says. It will complement the current vaccine made by Merck, which is also experimental but has preliminary results showing high effectiveness.

  • J&J's vaccine was initially considered to be harder to distribute logistically, since it requires 2 doses given 56 days apart — tough to do especially in areas with a highly mobile population and many refugees.
  • However, the DRC is planning to use this experimental vaccine in communities outside of the Ebola hot spots in an effort to prevent the outbreak from reaching new regions.

Meanwhile, the WHO issued a statement Saturday warning that there may be at least one undiagnosed case in Tanzania, adding that it is trying to discern the situation there but were finding Tanzanian officials unresponsive to its requests for more information.

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Health officials urge Americans to get flu shots before November

Alex Azar (center) receives his flu shot just beflore Redskins legend Mark Way during a press conference. Photo courtesy of NFID

Public health officials on Thursday urged Americans to get their seasonal flu vaccine early this year, in case the U.S. follows Australia's season in which the virus hit many people early.

Why it matters: While public health officials admit the vaccine is not 100% effective, there's growing research showing that the vaccine reduces the severe and sometimes deadly complications from the disease and can protect newborns if the mother receives the vaccine while pregnant.

Go deeperArrowSep 26, 2019

U.S. likely to retain measles elimination status — but barely

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York says it has reached a "milestone" in halting the measles outbreak that started in October 2018, and U.S. public health officials now believe the country has retained its measles elimination status — just barely meeting the year deadline, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Yes, but: Recent cases reported from returning international travelers demonstrate the danger of new outbreaks when there are still pockets of communities with low vaccination rates. Despite measles being mostly preventable, the combination of the anti-vaccination movement and vaccine hesitancy places several communities at risk.

Go deeperArrowOct 3, 2019

NY officials: Major measles outbreak is over as countdown continues

Waiting for patients at the Rockland County Health Department in April. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Health officials from Rockland County — the New York community that's been a focal point in the recent battle over measles due to its low vaccination rate — announced Wednesday that the outbreak there is over.

Why it matters: The latest measles outbreak in America is the largest since 1992, and public health officials have been concerned the U.S. could lose the "measles elimination status" it earned in 2000. But the U.S. may "scrape through just under the wire" and retain its status as long as no new cases are reported in New York state in September, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells Axios.

Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019