February 19, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
As the government and its partners draw closer towards defeating the Ebola virus disease, an evaluation study on a vaccine to prevent the virus is expected to commence in March this yeaThe study, which will be conducted by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), and the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has already received the approval of the Sierra Leone Ethics and Scientific Review Committee.
According to the acting Provost of COMAHS, Dr. Mohamed Samai, the study will take place in four districts – Western Area and certain chiefdoms in Bombali, Port Loko and Tonkolili districts – which have been heavily affected by the outbreak in the past few months.
He informed newsmen on Tuesday (February 17) that the goal of the study in Sierra Leone is to evaluate if and how well an Ebola prevention vaccine helps protect people from contracting the virus, and to expand the safety profile of the vaccine from previous smaller studies.
“A vaccine is important because it might help protect people from getting Ebola during this outbreak or future ones, helping to save lives. It is a vaccine that cannot cause Ebola. In phase one, antibodies against Ebola were produced following vaccination,” he explained and further disclosed that the vaccine has already been tested in non-affected areas and that none of the recipients contracted the virus.
Dr. Samai said the vaccine has also been tested on people in non-affected countries as well as animals, and that no vaccine-related severe adverse events, including deaths, hospitalization or life threatening illnesses, were reported.
The acting COMAHS Provost also disclosed that health workers in the districts where the study will be conducted will be given the opportunity to take the vaccine being studied because “their job puts them at higher risk of getting the Ebola virus”, with a total of 6,000 participants to be part of the study.
Also, Director of Planning in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. S.A.S Kargbo, emphasized the importance of the study and pointed to the fact that the country has suffered a lot in what he described as the “worst epidemic in modern time”.
On his part, United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone, John Hoover, maintained that his country has a long relationship with Sierra Leone in healthcare strengthening and research, and stressed the timeliness and importance of the study, which he said “is about saving lives”.