Monrovia — When Ebola struck Liberia in March of 2014, the entire country looked confused as to what to do in order to stop an impending catastrophe. With many people dying daily, then Liberia’s Minister of Health Dr. Walter Gwenigale sort the intervention of partners in the United States through a clinical research. That appeal was quickly adhered to by the American People through the establishment of a Liberia-US joint clinical research partnership known as Prevail.
PREVAIL, which is the Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia, now looks set for a very successful research after concluding the first year of clinical operations in Liberia. It followed the graduation of the first batch of people who participated in the clinical trials of the Ebola Vaccines. About 1,500 persons took the vaccines and so far there has been no complications reported.
The first 200 persons were certificated on Monday at the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town for successfully participating in the study. Others are scheduled to be certificated at different time intervals. The Redemption Hospital in the densely populated Borough of New Kru Town on the Bushrod Island was one of the busiest during the height of the Ebola crisis hence it was the first to have benefited from the establishment of a state of the art clinical facility by Prevail.
A key positive of the vaccine is that it allowed the participants to do thorough and complete medical examination of their bodies during which treatable medical problems discovered were treated free of charge. The Prevail site manager at Redemption Hospital Melvin Johnson believes the graduates will now be ambassadors for Prevail ahead of other baseline research that could be conducted in the future by the Liberia-US joint research partnership.
Melvin thanked the participants for taking the bore step in going through the vaccine study despite all the fears about Ebola infection at the time. “What you have done here will go down in history and you will stand, put your hand up high and say I contributed to finding a vaccine for the Ebola virus disease” Johnson added during a short program held at the Redemption Hospital.
Social Mobilization Driving on Research
Meanwhile the Director of the US-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci has described the various studies being conducted by Prevail as the most participatory ever. Dr. Fauci speaking on a tour of Prevail operation centers in Monrovia said he has been so much impressed with the level enthusiasm Liberians have generated in taking part in the various clinical studies being conducted by Prevail here. The three major studies are known as Prevail one, two and three. Besides Prevail one which is the vaccine study, there was also Prevail two which saw the z-map drug trials and now the ongoing Ebola natural history study.
The study also known as PREVAIL-Three is designed to better understand the kind of health problems Ebola survivors experience and determine whether they are the same or different from the health problems experienced by people who have recovered from other serious diseases. The study which focuses on a controlled group of Ebola Survivors and their closed contacts is investigating the variety of health problems faced by the people who have survived the Ebola virus disease and find possible medical solutions to them or provide participants with referrals to other healthcare facilities in Liberia that have been designated by the ministry of health.
The study is expected to enroll approximately 7 thousand 5 hundred people including one thousand five hundred survivors and six thousand of their close contacts within a period of five years. The various studies are being supported by the American tax payers through the United States Institute of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Anthony Fauci who was visiting along with his principal deputy Dr. Cliff Lane said results from all three of the studies have been recommended for presentation at the world’s ‘biggest infectious disease conference’ in Boston USA by next month. This mean that there is still a long way before it is determined as to whether an Ebola vaccine has been developed or not but Liberia can be happy that its citizens participated in the clinical trials that could possibly lead a vaccine.
Much of the public interest in the study has been generated by social mobilization through the Liberia Crusaders for Peace and Dr. Fauci could not hide his joy when thanking LCP Executive Director Juli Endee for the good work done so far. Speaking to Journalists at the end of the tour of the Redemption and JFK Hospital Prevail sites, Dr. Fauci said he was overwhelmed by the level of commitment Prevail staff have given their job and the things they have achieved together since the start of operations.
“I am really impressed with the excellence of the performance of the team here in Liberia. I know that we have some fine scientists in the U.S. and I know some of the top Liberian Scientists but I did not know that there was a good team of Liberian staff that could do the work so excellently” said Dr. told this paper. He said what has happened in Liberia regarding the studies is second to none and historical and hoped that the rest of Africa and the world at large will reap the benefit for what Liberia has done.