Uganda to Start Ebola Vaccine Trials

Photo: Huster/MSF
A team that has just finished setting up a tent in the high-risk zone in the Ebola treatment centre, getting out of their personal protective equipment (PPE). It’s hard work, and harder still in such attire. Photographer: Karin

Kampala, Uganda — The Uganda Virus Research Institute-UVRI is set to carry out phase two human trials for the Ebola vaccine. The trials are expected to start in July.

The trial is going to use the Janssen Ebola Vaccine that was developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Company. Phase I and II human trials of the vaccine have already been carried out by the Oxford Vaccine Group in the United Kingdom.

The study will be carried out at Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Director UVRI says that the vaccine will be tested on a wide number of people in Mbarara. He says the people will be under close observation.

As part of the trial, volunteers will be given two doses. The first will be a prime dose to stimulate an initial response and then a booster dose to increase the level and duration of protection against Ebola.

Prof Kaleebu says that they are carrying out the phase II trial on a bigger scale because the vaccine is moving on to be licensed so that it can be used in Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC where there is an outbreak of Ebola.

The vaccine is a mix of different Ebola strains and Marburg fever. Majority of the vaccine is made up strains from Ebola Zaire. It has components of Ebola Thai and Sudan.

Prof Kaleebu says that previous trial of the vaccine has shown that it is highly effective in protecting animals like monkeys up to over 90 percent.

Dr Juliet Mwanga, the focal person of the trial in Mbarara says that they have formed a strong team of health workers and support staff to closely follow the trial.

"A team of over 24 doctors and support staff will take part in the study. The study will take place in a controlled environment for us to better get accurate results of the effectiveness of the vaccine."

Uganda last year began carrying out emergency vaccination of frontline health workers against Ebola in high-risk districts neighbouring DRC where Ebola has claimed the lives of over 900 people.

More than 4,000 health workers were vaccinated using the Ebola-rV5V vaccine. The vaccine was developed by Merck pharmaceuticals.

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