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Ebola vaccine study gains momentum here

The ongoing PREVAIL Ebola vaccine study has taken roots in Liberia with many communities embracing the idea of helping to find solution to an international public health problem. PREVAIL is the Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia, a joint Liberia-US clinical research program established in 2014 in response to a request by former Liberian Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale to then U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Sylvia Burwell to assist Liberia develop vaccines and therapeutics to tackle Ebola.

The month of October witnessed a significant milestone as far as the vaccine study is concern as more and more people were covered through
community engagements. This is in addition to the publication of the results from the first vaccine study in 2015 by the New England Journal of Medicine on October 12 followed by the subsequent release to the local media by Dr. Fatorma Bolay, Co-Principal Investigator of the Ebola vaccine study.

Ebola killed more than 11,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in an outbreak in 2014-15 and Dr. Bolay said the results demonstrate that Liberia is poised to make a telling contribution to global public health.

Community engagements on the Vaccine Study and the newly introduced Genomic study were held in October across Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties. This means that over 1500 community members and key stakeholders have been directly reached with the needed information about the various studies being conducted in Liberia aimed at finding lasting solution to the Ebola Virus Disease.

Some of the communities visited include, Harmon Hill Community in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, Tire Shop Community at Redhill Field in
Virginia outside Monrovia, Wein Town Community in Paynesville, Unification City in Margibi County and Senje, Grand Cape Mount County, respectively.

At the Wein Town Community in particular, the residents welcomed the Ebola Vaccine Study being conducted by PREVAIL especially, as it was
the first time for community engagement on the study to reach their community. The residents including Rev. Lassana Gebah said it is important for Liberians to take advantage of the ongoing Ebola Vaccine study by enrolling into the program.

Rev. Gebah was particularly pleased with the fact that PREVAIL has come to their area to do an awareness. Harmon Hill is one of the communities that were badly affected by the Ebola outbreak in Tubmanburg, Bomi County and news of the effectiveness from the first vaccine study was received with great excitements by the residents during another engagement meeting there.

Elder Philip Swen in particular said, “We lost about 30 persons in this community alone and 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 daughters will be encouraged to join the study”.

PREVAIL social Mobilization and Community Engagement Partner, Liberia Crusaders for Peace has been spearheading those community engagement efforts aimed at garnering public participation in the Ebola Vaccine study. Speaking during a meeting in Unification City, Mr. Daniel Bumie of the Liberia Crusaders for Peace stressed the significance of community participation, noting that the research cannot be successful without them.

Bumie said the ongoing vaccine study is in the best interest of Liberia and it depends on Liberians themselves to make the historic project works.
According to him, the success of PREVAIL Ebola Virus research in Liberia has been largely down to the involvement of the community people and as such urged them to continue their cooperation.

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 at the close of a one-day training workshop on health reporting for Journalists in
Western Liberia. The training highlighted both the Ebola Vaccine Study and the Genomic Study being conducted by PREVAIL. Dr. Fallah said it was important for the reporters to understand the merits of the research so that they will communicate the right kind of messages to the local population.

By Bridgett Milton

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