The Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL) has received high marks for its ongoing research program in Liberia. During Community Engagement and other Social Mobilization and Communication (SMC) activities carried out in October in Margibi, Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties, residents and other stakeholders hailed the Liberia-US Clinical Research Partnership for taking time to visit their various communities to spread the “good news,” which includes the benefits of PREVAIL activities for national and global public health.
In early October, PREVAIL announced in a press release the results of the PREVAIL 1 Vaccine Study as published in the New England Journal of Medicine. On October 26th, study Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Fatorma Bolay said in Monrovia that the results show that the two test vaccines, cAd3-EBOZ, and rVSV-ZEBOV, pose no major safety concerns and can produce immune responses within one month after vaccination that last for at least one year.
Dr. Bolay noted that some participants who received the test vaccines had temporary mild to moderate side effects, including headaches, muscle pain, fever, and fatigue. These side effects varied from one person to another. But overall, no major safety concerns related to the vaccines were identified.
Between February 2 and April 30, 2015, 1,500 men and women ages, 18 and older were enrolled into the study at Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town in Monrovia. People who enrolled in the study have no reported history of Ebola virus disease.
Mr. Emmanuel Lassana, the first participant in the PREVAIL 1 Vaccine Study, sharing his experiences, said “I was the first to take the vaccine on February 2, 2015, at a time when there were a lot of misconceptions about the vaccine. But I took it anyhow to help Liberia develop the vaccines to cure the world.”
Advocacy and Community Engagement activities focused on the ongoing follow-up Ebola Vaccine Study and the Genomics Study also took place in October across Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties. More than 1,500 community members and key stakeholders have been directly reached with information about these studies being conducted by PREVAIL.
Communities visited included the Harmon Hill Community in Tubmanburg, Bomi County; Tire Shop Community at Redhill Field in Virginia just outside Monrovia; Wehn Town Community in Paynesville; Unification City in Margibi County; and Sinje in Grand Cape Mount County. The SMC Monitoring and Evaluation Lead, Dr. Khalipha Bility, is conducting surveys at these community events to find out how well the people understand and perceive the materials being presented about the studies.
Harmon Hill is one of the communities that was badly affected by the Ebola outbreak, and news of the results of the first vaccine study was received with great excitement by the residents during another engagement meeting there.
Elder Philip Swen said, “We lost about 30 persons in this community alone, so we are happy that the Liberian government and the American government are trying their best to find a vaccine for Ebola. We hope you people will keep up this awareness so that our sons and daughter will be encouraged to join the new vaccine study.”
PREVAIL SMC Community Engagement Partner, Liberia Crusaders for Peace, has been spearheading the messages in October intended to garner public participation in the various studies including the current Ebola Vaccine and Genomic Studies.
Meanwhile, the Principal Investigator of the Ebola Natural History Study, Dr. Mosoka Fallah, has underscored the crucial role of the media in scientific research. Dr. Fallah attributes the success so far of PREVAIL to the important role the media continues to play in taking the key messages to the people.
He was speaking recently in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, during a one-day training workshop on health reporting for journalists in Western Liberia. The program brought together reporters from Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and host Bomi County.
The ongoing Ebola Vaccine Study, (PREVAIL 5), is taking place at the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, the venue of the first vaccine study conducted in 2015 and it is being jointly conducted by the PREVAC consortium in Liberia and Guinea under the auspices of the West African Regional Consortium.