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SA role in Ebola vaccine clinical trial

South African healthcare workers in Sierra Leone might be among the frontline staff offered experimental Ebola vaccines when clinical trials get under way in West Africa in the next two months, it emerged last week.
 
Researchers and vaccine manufacturers are pushing ahead with plans to test whether three experimental Ebola vaccines are effective against the virus, racing against time as the number of patients falls.
 
West Africa has experienced the worst outbreak of Ebola since it was first identified in 1976, with about 21,000 cases and more than 8,000 deaths recorded so far.
 
The health department has sent a team of experts from the National Health Laboratory Service to run mobile testing facilities in Sierra Leone, and last month called for healthcare workers to volunteer there too. Transmission remains intense in Sierra Leone but cases are dwindling in Guinea and Liberia — the two other countries worst affected. Since determining a vaccine's efficacy requires comparing how many vaccinated people get sick compared to those who are not given the shots, this comparison gets increasingly difficult as the number of patients falls.
 
Recently the World Health Organisation convened a meeting of experts from drug companies, regulatory agencies and health ministries to review the data from initial safety trials of candidate Ebola vaccines and finalise plans for larger, phase 3 trials in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
 
"We won't break the outbreak until we have a vaccine. There is a real opportunity if we get into the field soon, " vaccine expert Helen Rees, who co-chaired the meeting, told Business Day. It was not just a public health issue, but a social and economic one, said Prof Rees, who is also the executive director of the Reproductive Health and HIV Institute at Wits University.
 
A clinical trial is due to begin in Liberia by the end of the month, and studies in Sierra Leone and Guinea will begin in February.
 
It is likely to take up to six months to determine whether the vaccines are effective.

Source URL: http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/health/2015/01/19/sa-role-in-ebola-vaccine-clinical-trial

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