The Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL) says its mission has been conducting collaborative biomedical research in accordance with best practices to advance science, strengthen health policy and practice and improve the health of Liberians and people worldwide
In reaction to a statement presented at the opening of the just ended workshop on the Committee for Clinical Trials on Ebola that brought medical doctors and healthcare professionals from Guinea and a Sierra Leone to Monrovia, Dr. Vuyu Kanda Golakai, Dean of the A. M. Doglioti College of Medicine at the University of Liberia deliberated on gaps in the conduct of the Ebola vaccine research and called for a review as well as scrutinizing the conduct of the research in Liberia.
However, PREVAIL, in a press release last night said contrary to Dr. Golakai’s claim, its operations were established as a result of a request made by the former Minister of Health, Dr. Walter Gwinegale at the height of the Ebola menace to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, seeking assistance in developing collaboration between the US Government and the Liberian government.
PREVAIL said it was a request that promised therapeutics for Ebola Virus Disease and vaccines for its prevention, which suggests that the exercise was not a one-sided attempt by the United States government.
The release noted that the exercise has been conducted as a joint partnership with both Liberian and US scientists being organized to work together as part of the clinical protocol for the vaccine study.
“The Chairman of the Incident Management System that handled the Ebola fight, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah designated Dr. Stephen Kennedy to lead the Liberian team of scientists,” the PREVAIL release said, “and a technical team consisting of Liberians with expertise in clinical research was established to collaborate with their US counterparts.”
It said a number of consultative meetings were held with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the process was conducted in accordance with national policies and international clinical research guidelines.
“In addition, PREVAIL developed and implemented Social Mobilization, Community Engagement and Communication strategies to educate Liberians at the leadership and community levels about the Ebola disease and the clinical research,” it stated.
Refuting claims that there gaps in requisite knowledge of emergency situations, PREVAIL said feedback from consultative meetings resulted in amendments to the protocol to ensure that the concerns of the Liberian people regarding research were addressed where possible.
“It is important to note that clinical research is necessary before any medication is approved for human use. All medications must be properly researched and approved by recognized regulatory authorities before they can be authorized for use,” it said.
PREVAIL said following the protocol, it made massive investment in building the clinical research capacity of Liberia – from infrastructure development of sites at the Redemption Hospital, Duport Road Health Center, the C.H. Rennie Hospital, and the JFK Memorial Medical Center, to training of Liberian healthcare professionals, pharmacists, lab technicians in conducting clinical research according to international standards.
Though specifically not answering Dr. Golakai’s concerns about the mysterious long-distance flight of bats discovered in southern Africa and how they ‘mysteriously’ appeared in Liberia, as well as why the Z-Mapp vaccine, made in the United States was not tried there, PREVAIL said findings from the research in Liberia has helped the implementation of the ring vaccination in Guinea, which many including the WHO have credited to the end of major transmission of Ebola in Guinea.
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 vaccine as part of the ministry-led public health response to future Ebola outbreaks in Liberia as a part of an expanded access research protocol.