Ebola vaccinations in eastern Congo due to begin on Wednesday

An ambulance from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) drives through a street in the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Vaccinations against a new outbreak of Ebola virus in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are due to begin on Wednesday, a senior official at the health ministry said on Sunday.

The experimental vaccine, which is manufactured by Merck, proved successful during its first wide-scale usage against an outbreak in northwestern Congo that was declared over less than two weeks ago.

More than 3,000 doses remain in stock in the capital Kinshasa, allowing authorities to quickly deploy it to the affected areas near the Ugandan border.

As with the previous outbreak, vaccination will focus on health workers and people who have come into contact with confirmed cases of the disease, said Barthe Ndjoloko, who oversees the health ministry’s Ebola response.

“Teams are conducting investigations on the ground to identify the contacts of the confirmed cases, including health workers,” he told reporters in the town of Beni.

Health workers are in the process of setting up a so-called cold chain, the series of measures needed to keep the vaccine well below zero in a tropical climate without reliable power supplies, the ministry said.

Reporting By Fiston Mahamba; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Alexandra Hudson