Officials of the joint Liberia-US clinical research partnership otherwise known as PREVAIL have announced that a study called PREVAC, intended to inoculate citizens of the three Mano River Union countries, will soon begin in Guinea and will be followed by Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The announcement was made by the Principal Investigator of the PREVAIL Ebola Natural History Study, Dr. Mosoka Fallah; Operations Director, Jemee Tegli; Amb. Juli Endee, head of Community Engagement; and the SMC Co-Lead, Barthalomew Wilson, who appeared at the regular MICAT Press briefing on Thursday to provide updates on the research study.
Dr. Fallah informed journalists that PREVAIL was doing a tremendous work to study why, after recovering from Ebola, survivors are still experiencing a range of health problems. He named some of them as headaches, eye problems, pains, and neurological problems.
He said PREVAIL will follow these survivors for five years, pointing out that efforts were being made to provide clinical care for them.
He disclosed plans by PREVAIL to discontinue the birth cohorts program for pregnant Ebola survivors and close contacts impregnated by survivors, because study investigation has so far revealed no signs of Ebola in pregnant female survivors.
On the vaccine study, Dr. Fallah said Liberia has made significant gains and there are plans to use a candidate vaccine in Liberia during Ebola outbreaks. But he was quick to point out that a study called PREVAC, intended to inoculate citizens of the three Mano River Union countries, will soon begin in Guinea. This will be followed by Sierra Leone and Liberia.
As a result of PREVAIL’s work, a discussion has now been initiated among the Liberian Ministry of Health, MSF, and Merck (manufacturer of the vaccine) to use the VSV Ebola vaccine as part of the ministry-led public health response to future Ebola outbreaks in Liberia as part of an expanded access research protocol.
Also speaking, the Director of Operations, Jemee Tegli, spoke of the level of achievements made by PREVAIL since its inception in Liberia. In his PowerPoint presentation, Mr. Tegli provided the before and after pictures of dilapidated infrastructures at the Redemption Hospital, JFK medical center, Duport Road Health Center and the C. H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, where PREVAIL’s research programs are being conducted.
He also spoke of the assistance being rendered the Liberia Biomedical Research Institute (LIBRI) by the US National Institutes of Health through the partnership. As a result, five researchers from the LIBRI have benefitted from advanced training abroad. He also spoke of other training opportunities being provided by PREVAIL to other Liberians to study at Harvard and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
For their part, the head of Community Engagement, Cultural Ambassador Juli Endee, and SMC Co-Lead, Bartholomew Wilson, in separate appearances lauded the communities for embracing the research studies more especially the Vaccine and the Ebola Natural History Study.
Amb. Endee said much was achieved in terms of mobilizing the community through the ethics standards and framework. She emphasized that the use of Liberian culture played a pivotal role in changing perceptions of volunteers in the vaccine study and to seek enrollment of survivors.
She praised the NIH, LEIDOS, and the American and Liberian governments for the partnership which is helping to find a solution to the problem. She called on Liberians to be a part of history making by promoting the study through the dissemination of factual information.
Bartholomew Wilson said much was achieved over the past year through the intervention of a robust community engagement strategy and by reaching out to the community to get them aware and solicit their ideas on the study, said a press release yesterday.