Dr. Stephen Kennedy - Chief Investigation of the trail vaccine in Liberia

Monrovia - The Chief Investigator of the United States and Liberia research on the Ebola vaccine says misconceptions about the study have vanished amongst Liberians. Dr. Stephen Kennedy said clinical trial in Liberia is new which, he says made it difficult to convince Liberians about the relevance of the scientific research on finding Ebola vaccine.

The Partnership for Research and Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL) began on Feb. 2, 2015 to test the safety and efficacy of the cAd3-EBOZ vaccine which was co-developed by NIAID scientists and GlaxoSmithKline. The other trail vaccine, VSV-ZEBOV was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corporation and Merck.

According to PREVAIL, Volunteers were assigned at random to receive a single injection of the NIAID/GSK (cAd3-EBOZ) vaccine, the VSV-ZEBOV vaccine, or a placebo (saline) injection. There were increased misconceptions about the trail vaccine when the trail began in Monrovia in April 2015. But Dr. Kennedy now admits that convincing Liberians as well as journalists about the relevance and benefit of the trail was challenging.

“As we moved along, I thing journalists and the Liberian public are beginning to understand the benefits and potential implication for them and for the country,” Dr. Kennedy told reporters few minutes after lecturing Liberian journalists on the status of the research at a workshop organized by the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) ongoing in Monrovia.

He added that disseminating, educating and providing awareness to the public was essential to the research process, and he hailed journalists for playing a critical role in combatting the epidemic. Stressing the significance of collaborating with journalists to prevent future outbreak, the PREVAIL Principal Researcher said Liberia needs to invest in clinical research to be able to answer most of the problems that effected the country as a result of the Ebola crisis. “If the country invests in clinical research, invest in research infrastructure, invest in human capacity, we feel that we will be in a better position a country and the will be minimum challenge,” said Dr. Kennedy.

Research Cost Unknown

When asked about the estimated cost of the ongoing research, Dr. Kennedy said he’s unaware because his role is only scientific. The research is a partnership between the Liberian government, the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), and PREVAIL, and main researcher admitted that it is the international partners that have invested money into the study. He clarify that the Liberian government has also invested a lot, which he said includes the Liberian human resource and infrastructure into the research.

He’s confident that the research is ‘safe and quite’ promising based on the results from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. “We’ve been able to provide the answers, the next step is the pharmaceuticals component to be able to take the product and go and applied to the regulator for license trail that is beyond the preview of clinical research,” he said.