UN: WHO says large-scale Ebola vaccine trials underway in Liberia

New York, US (PANA) - The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the Ebola vaccine trials now underway in Liberia will soon start in Guinea and Sierra Leone, the two other
most-affected countries in West Africa.

WHO said the vaccine trials in Liberia were being run by the Liberian government in partnership with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and would involve 30,000 volunteers in clinics and hospitals.

"They plan to test both leading candidate vaccines and compare both with a placebo group,'' WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said in a statement made available to PANA here, adding that a smaller trial is taking place first that would test the acceptability, reliability and the immune response in the trial currently taking place.

She said in Guinea, a so-called "ring vaccination trial" for Ebola would take place based on the
approach that was used to eradicate the smallpox virus.

Ms. Harris also explained that when a case of contamination was discovered, the person contaminated and a 'ring' of people around them would be vaccinated, to see if that prevented further cases occurring.

"Also, in Sierra Leone, a different approach would be taken," she said.

The spokesperson said teams would carry out vaccinations in one area, then a few weeks later,
vaccinate in another place, adding that the idea behind the process is that there should be fewer
cases in the place where the first vaccinations took place, and show whether the vaccine was truly protective or not.

"The focus in Sierra Leone would be on health care and front line workers, mainly in the western areas where there were still tremendous levels of transmission," she said.

Ms. Harris said it was important to note that the vaccine is a preventive measure, not a cure or a drug treatment for Ebola, which has affected 22,444 people with 8,959 deaths.

"It would be a tool to prevent outbreaks of Ebola, however, in the future,"she said, adding
that everyone involved in the trials was a volunteer and understood they had volunteered to
be part of a scientific trial.

According to her: "Trials have been carried out with animals, with non-human primates,
who have had a very good reaction when exposed to Ebola and did not catch it."

Meanwhile, WHO has announced the appointment of Dr. Bruce Aylward as its Special
Representative for Ebola Response.

It said Dr. Aylward would be expected to also work more closely with the UN Mission for
Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), the African Union, the Economic Community
of West African States (ECOWAS), and other partners to support the Ebola affected
countries to control the epidemic.

Also, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that, following the reopening of schools
in Guinea on 19 Jan., Liberia was preparing to reopen its schools on 16 Feb.

UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said the agency and its partners were assisting in developing relevant safety protocols.

They include equipping every school with hand washing equipment at entrances and in every bathroom, ensuring upon entry to the schools and on a daily basis that the temperature of every child, teacher and employee is normal and ensuring that every school has enough water, given that only 45 per cent of schools previously had access to water.
-0- PANA AA/SEG 4Feb2015

04 february 2015 08:21:19

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