Ebola drug trials begin; Liberians divided
Twelve Liberian volunteers on Monday were given experimental Ebola vaccines.
"The current trial… is not what will end the Ebola crisis… [rather], it's to help us in the future," Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who is also manager of the Ebola Incident System, told a press conference in capital Monrovia.
The test vaccines were transported from a secret holding facility to Monrovia's Redemption Hospital, where it was administered to 12 volunteers.
Healthcare workers screened volunteers to ensure their eligibility for the trial.
People who have fever, Ebola survivors, or pregnant or breastfeeding women were not eligible to take part.
Dr. Clifford Lane, Deputy Director for Clinical Research and Special Projects at Washington's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the vaccine was aimed at preventing Ebola.
But he asserted that his team – and its Liberian counterpart – had not established whether the vaccine could prevent Ebola with a 100-percent success rate.
"The purpose of the study being initiated here is whether or not the vaccine will actually protect against the Ebola virus infection," he told a presser held at the Information Ministry.
Lane said the study was expected to target at least 6,000 volunteers.
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 8,641 people, mostly in West Africa, according to a Jan. 21 World Health Organization (WHO) status report.
In Liberia alone, the virus has claimed 3,605 lives.
Liberians expressed different views regarding the drug trials.
"For me, I will not take the vaccine – not even my grandchildren will take it," Elizabeth Koillie, 58, told the Anadolu Agency.
She said that, because the health authorities were unclear on whether the vaccine could prevent Ebola, her and her children would refrain from taking it.
Another Liberian, 21-year-old Fredrick Vah, believes the move has come too late.
"Ebola is almost gone now," he told AA, referring to a recent decline in new infections.
"Now they are coming to bring the vaccine," Vah said. "We aren't sure whether it will help, or even give us Ebola to test on us."
"If they come in my community [to vaccinate us], we will not take it," he asserted.
John Sumo, for his part, said that since the drug trials were being carried out in cooperation with his government and the WHO, he supported the measure.
"I do not think our own government would mean bad for its own citizens," he told AA.
"So let's give them the chance to do what they can to find a solution to Ebola," he said. "If it is safe, we will take it."
Last Modified: 2015-02-03 10:13:59
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