On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Officials celebrate Ebola vaccine trials

Ebola  Survivor

Ebola Survivor

Dr. Samuel Kargbo came to Geneva in September 2014 as one of roughly 70 experts from West Africa and around the world, to discuss the development of an Ebola vaccine. At one point, the participants from West Africa were asked what they wanted to take back to their countries from the discussions.
“I had only one word,” Kargbo recalled. “I said, ‘I want to bring hope back to my people.’”
Kargbo, now the director of Health Systems, Policy, Planning and Information in the Ministry of Health & Sanitation of Sierra Leone, was one of nine experts who spoke on Tuesday at an event celebrating the launch of STRIVE (Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola). STRIVE represents the second Phase III trial for the vaccine, and is the world’s largest study of an Ebola vaccine.
According to Dr. Mohamed Samai, Principal Investigator for STRIVE, the study was conducted on a random sample of 8,000 health care workers. No placebos were used. The hope is that the study will yield useful information about the efficacy of such vaccines, and hopefully lead to a viable vaccine for the disease.
The event started on a somber note, with Kargbo mourning the loss of colleagues and compatriots who fell victim to Ebola while the epidemic raged through Sierra Leone. But like most of the event’s speakers, Kargbo focused on the positive outcomes of the trials. “We have come a long way.”
As bad as the Ebola epidemic was, said Kargbo, it forced Sierra Leone to take a closer look at its health care system and the areas that needed development.
“Indeed, even the Ebola vaccine that we’ve come to celebrate today needs strong health systems if we are to go through the remaining stages for its introduction into the system,” he said.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, noted that Sierra Leone faced the difficult task of conducting trials for the Ebola vaccine while the epidemic was still strong, but that the worst is past.
“When you do a study like this in the middle of an epidemic, in the context of very constrained resources, when airlines won’t even land their planes in your country, this is very difficult but you develop incredible muscles,” she said. When Schuchat asked everyone present who had worked on STRIVE to stand, most of the room did so.
“This clinical trial is truly an outstanding example of what can be done in the spirit of collaboration and partnership,” said Ms. Laurie Meininger, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy. “I know that all of us here today hope that this vaccine will prevent future outbreaks. But even more than that, STRIVE built bridges on very personal levels into countries and into cultures.”
Ms. Sara Hersey, Country Director, CDC Sierra Leone said the CDC and the United States government are committed to supporting President Koroma’s Recovery Plan
“We didn’t just want to return Sierra Leone back to where we were prior to ebola, but the whole goal is to rebuild it back better,” she said. “And we’re really on the trajectory.”
In the next couple months, the CDC will be donating equipment to the Ministry of Health and The College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), including cold chain equipment, vaccine containers, freezers, computers and office supplies, lab supplies including centrifuges and other equipment, Hersey said. It will also refurbish several facilities, and CDC employees will donate their time and technical expertise.
Chief Bai Kerr, a Paramount Chief and Member of Parliament, thanked the CDC for its donations and urged it to continue to support Sierra Leone, saying “Please don’t abandon us.”
By Chetanya Robinson
Wednesday August 24, 2016

Comments are closed.