What was expected to be a large clinical trial for the first 600 Liberian volunteers to assess the safety and efficacy of two experimental anti-Ebola vaccines has so far been shunned by Liberians.
By the end of the first week of the trial, only 108 volunteers had turned up, the Daily Observer learned last Friday. The experimental trial is expected to immunize around 30,000 volunteers and healthcare workers in the entire process in Liberia.
The trial is being led by the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL), the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the U. S. National Institute of Health (NIH).
The trials, taking place at the Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, did not attract the expected throng of volunteers, which forced PREVAIL to admit last week its poor public awareness campaign before the trial. It promised to exert more efforts to educate the public and to create greater awareness of the study.
The vaccines include cAd3-EBOZ, which uses a chimpanzee-derived cold virus and the VSV-ZEBOV, which employs vesicular stomatitis virus, an animal virus that primarily affects cattle, to carry an Ebola virus gene segment.
Participants are drawn from healthy adults in the general population with the trial seeking volunteers from groups at particular risk of Ebola infection, including health care workers, communities with ongoing transmission, contact tracers and members of burial teams.
Media Consultant Hassan Kiawu told the Daily Observer yesterday that volunteers have so far not reported any negative reaction among the 108 participants and they should be returning to the hospital for further study and consultations this week.
He said twelve volunteers came forward on the first day of the trial. “After that there have been twenty four volunteers daily in the past four days and the process continued from Monday to Friday.”
He dispelled fears expressed prior to the study that serious effects could occur upon those participants with weak resistance. “After the process to get the qualified volunteers vaccinated, they are monitored for thirty minutes for any immediate reaction.”
Though he admitted that like all vaccines, there are mild to low reactions, depending on the individual, so far, “health workers will be meeting with the volunteers this week for further observation.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Observer learned that further information on issues concerning the vaccines’ study will be provided today during the regular information session at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in Monrovia.