Mbarara, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | One hundred and fifty people have received the two doses of the Jansen ZEBOVAC Ebola vaccine during trials that are currently ongoing at EpiCenter Health Research at the Mbarara University Science and Research in Mbarara.
The vaccine is currently being used by health workers in both Rwanda and the DRC following the outbreak of Ebola in DRC in August 2018.
Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute and also the lead investigator of the trial says that the trials that begun in August this year are producing good results.
The 150 participants that have received the two vaccines will be monitored and followed up by medical officers for a total of 75 days.
The vaccine is made of two different vaccine components that were given to participants 56 days apart. The first dose of the vaccine consists of the ZEBOV which is based on Jansen pharmaceuticals technology and another consisting of MVA-BN-Filo taken eight weeks later from Bavarain Nordic’s MVA-BN.
Dr. Kaleebu says that despite initial public mistrust of the Jansen vaccine in DRC, the vaccine is safe. He says the second dose of the vaccine is a booster that improves the efficacy of the vaccine.
According to Prof Kaleebu, no major side effects have been recorded during the trial process so far. “We have received minor side effects like fevers, swelling and itching. One of the participants died but that was due to other causes that were not related to the study. So far, things are going on well,” Prof Kaleebu said.
Initially, the trial was targeting 800 people but it has only been able to enroll 350 people. Prof Kaleebu says that they hope that by the first quarter of 2020, they hope to have recruited enough people to have comprehensive data collected from the study.
“We hope to have recruited enough numbers for the trial next year by the end of the first quarter because the vaccine is undergoing review by the FDA and data from this study is going to be used in June 2020,”Prof Kaleebu explains.
Dr. Yonas Woldermariam, the World Health Organization Country Representative says that following global shortages of the Merck vaccine, the new vaccine will enable all countries that need a vaccine have some sort of protection from the deadly Ebola epidemic.
“While Merck is back to manufacturing more vaccines, we do not have enough vaccines. The new vaccine is needed since the remaining stock of the Merck vaccines are being sent to DRC since that is where an active outbreak is,” said Dr. Woldermariam. said.
The rvsv-ZEBOV vaccine marketed as Ervebo vaccine was used in West Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and recently in DRC on compassionate grounds. The vaccine was recently approved by the European Commission and it is awaiting review by the US Food and Drug Administration. If approved by FDA, the vaccine will be the first Ebola vaccine approved globally.
The two vaccines according to WHO have the ability to put a stop to the spread of the Ebola outbreak within DRC. As of November 24,2019, it is estimated that a total of 3185 people were infected with Ebola with a 2199 deaths reported since the beginning of the outbreak.