USL launches Ebola Vaccine initiative


June 6, 2018

By Yusufu S. Bangura

The high table had reps from WHO, COMAHS and MoHS

The Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola (STRIVE) was yesterday launched by the University of Sierra Leone at the Miatta Conference Centre, Youyi Building in Freetown.

Speaking during the ceremony, Dr. Mohamed Samai, Associate Professor at College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), University of Sierra Leone, who  also doubles as the STRIVE study lead, said the deadly Ebola outbreak posed tremendous challenges for health sector workers.

He noted that Ebola is a dangerous disease that has afflicted many African countries, including Sierra Leone, and that he and his colleagues from the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences were tasked to put together a team of experts to research and develop a vaccine which would help mitigate the impact of the virus in the future.

Dr. Samai added that the STRIVE initiative has since been supported by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Institute of Public Administration and Management, University of Sierra Leone, Professor Allyson A. Sesay, thanked the team of researchers, adding that shortly after the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the university started strategising on how they could contribute in the research for the Ebola vaccine.

He noted that he challenged COMAHS to fight against the disease and thanked God that they accepted the challenge, thus paving the way for a collaborative research team to be put together by some professional heads, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) USA to produce the vaccine.

Professor Sesay averred that the STRIVE trial, which is said to be the largest in West Africa, has shown significant promise for the production of a vaccine to help fight against the deadly disease.

He added that with limited resources they were able to produce students who could win awards, produce good publications and many more outside the country, stressing the need for government to improve on education in the country

Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie, said Ebola is a disease that Sierra Leoneans and others living abroad would never forget, urging men and women to take the vaccine as it was of immense benefit to the nation.

“I was speaking with members of the health sector about the Ebola vaccine and it is a clear marker of scientific nature of Sierra Leoneans, that indeed we now have history of science and I am happy for that,” he said.

Dr. Wurie noted that some time ago Sierra Leone experienced Lassa Fever outbreak, but the country failed to learn from that experience to protect the people from future outbreaks.

He added that in 2014, the country was exposed to Ebola, which in turn exposed weaknesses in the health sector.

The health minister further said that the country was pleased that WHO, COMAHS, and the University of Sierra Leone took the lead to produce the vaccine,  which is now being trialed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following the recent outbreak in that country.

Dr. Robert Musoke, World Health Organization Country Representative and Technical Officer Emergency Preparedness, said they have documented the story about the Ebola outbreak that affected countries in West Africa. He pledged WHO’s support to STRIVE in the fight to prevent future Ebola outbreak in the country and the sub-region.