Just days after reports that the final case of Ebola had been declared in Uganda, casting doubt on the future of vaccine trials against the virus, the WHO commented on the arrival of the first doses of a candidate against the Sudan ebolavirus. The trial that will investigate these doses is called Solidarity Against Ebola or Tokomeza Ebola. These doses arrived in record time, just 79 days after the declaration of the outbreak.
Doses arrive on time
The WHO recalls a previous outbreak in 2015 in Guinea, in which the time between declaration of the outbreak to the arrival of vaccines for a Phase III trial was 7 months. By contrast, these 1,200 doses have come in 79 days, marking a “historical milestone in the global capacity to respond to outbreaks”. As there are no licensed vaccines against the Sudan ebolavirus species behind the Ugandan outbreak, the need was pressing.
The vaccine in question is from Sabin Vaccine Insitute: ChAd3-SUDV. Other candidates from the University of Oxford/Serum Institute, and Merck/IAVI, will be added to the trial when they arrive.
Organisation in the outbreak
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, Uganda’s Minister of Health, suggested that Uganda was showing the possibility of “life-saving research” being “promptly organised in the midst of an outbreak”.
“We will continue to fight the outbreak using the effective tools we already have…but having a vaccine for this and future outbreaks is important”.
Among the tools listed, she identifies “rapid surveillance” and excellent health workers, as well as “engaging the community”. WHO has previously commended the swift and rigorous approach adopted by the Ministry of Health. Through collaboration between Makerere University and the Ministry of Health and WHO, the protocol for the trial was efficiently designed to “ensure regulatory and ethical processes were speedy”.
An important milestone
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, suggested that the arrival of the candidate in under 100 days is the “result of a global effort coordinated by WHO”.
“Every time we work together to assess vaccines quickly, we improve. This has benefits now and into the future”.
Furthermore, he emphasised that “these aren’t trial runs” but are “optimising the system for the next disease threat”. The WHO credits investments from external governments and research alignments, as well as a “no-regrets approach”. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, identifies the trial as a “significant and promising step”.
“It showcases the power of scientific research on our continent and how working in collaboration with international partners we can develop critical tools that will limit the lethal effect of Ebola.”
Professor Bruce Kirenga is the PI of the trial. He states that 9 research teams are trained and “ready to be deployed” for the trial. Dr Yona Tegegn Woldemariam, WHO Representative in Uganda, hopes that the trial will provide “sufficient information to know how effective one or more of the candidate vaccines are”.
“We are working hand in hand with all partners involved to ensure that the trial will be delivered to high scientific and ethical standards.”
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