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PREVAIL studies go to communities

Public acceptance of the PREVAIL Ebola research studies has been exceptional so far given the nature of responses from community dwellers across Liberia.

PREVAIL is a joint Liberia-U.S. clinical research program established in 2014 in response to a request by former Liberian Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale to then U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Sylvia Burwell, to assist Liberia develops vaccines and therapeutics to tackle the Ebola Virus Disease.

During a field visit to Duala community in Montserrado County sector two by a team of monitors from the Liberia Crusaders for Peace, many residents spoke positively about the work of PREVAIL. Since launching its first vaccine study in 2015, PREVAIL has so far been involved in six major studies about the Ebola Virus Disease, including several other sub-studies in Liberia.

The residents express joy that the U.S.-Liberia clinical research partnership is here, attempting to find lasting solutions to the scourge of Ebola that has struck Liberia and her neighbours to devastating effect.

Key messages are being provided on the ongoing PREVAIL Five vaccine study, which seeks to enroll about 5000 participants, including children between ages 1-17 years old.

The rationale is to find out whether the vaccine is also effective in children as they are found to be in adults and how long it lasts in the body. Sick people, breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, Ebola Survivors and people who have taken other vaccines within a month’s time are not allowed to participate in the PREVAIL vaccine study.

Madam Jenneh Kromah is one of those persons, who came in contact with an Ebola patient but did not get infected with the virus. She now sells cooked food in the Gbalaswa community in Duala Bushrod Island. Madam Kromah said the various PREVAIL research studies are good for Liberia and it will be a proud moment for the country if a vaccine is found for Ebola in Liberia.

The on-going Ebola preventive vaccine study otherwise known as PREVAIL-5 is taking place at the Redemption Hospital in the Borough of New Kru Town. PREVAIL-5 is jointly being conducted by Liberia and Guinea under the auspices of the West African Regional Consortium.

While in the Galaswa community in Duala, Bushrod Island, the team also visited a ghetto where a group of young men expressed interest in
enrolling into the ongoing vaccine study known as PREVAIL-5.

They explain how they have made couple of attempts at the Redemption Hospital to enroll in the study, but faced some minor challenges including lack of contact numbers. Madam Munah Yancy is the field Communicator who has been encouraging those men at the ghettos, she said though it is challenging but it was necessary for her to get to the people the most in need of the information.

“These guys maybe looked down upon in the society but they have been seeking information to enrolment into the PREVAIL studies ranging from the Ebola Natural History Study to the current Vaccine study”, she says.

The Community Chairman of Balaswa, Stephen Kaifa, also notes that the scientific research will have lasting benefits for the people of Liberia and the rest of the world.

According to him, the research study presents an opportunity for Liberia to make history, urging Liberians to take advantage of every opportunity provided by the scientific research being conducted on Ebola.

Much of the success of the study has been largely attributed to the SMC’s community engagement and awareness activities being carried out by the Liberia Crusaders for Peace, a partner of PREVAIL. The LCP has recruited and deployed over 300 young people, including survivors to work as community mobilizes and communicators aimed at garnering public participation in the various Ebola research studies being conducted in Liberia.

By Bridgett Milton-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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