Uganda started its largest-ever trial of a preventive Ebola vaccine, an official said, amid fears of a potential spill-over of the deadly haemorrhagic fever from neighbouring DR Congo.
The East African country has been on high alert since two people, visiting from Congo, died of the disease. A third family member died after returning back home.
Ebola killed more than 1 800 people in Congo in the latest outbreak in the central African country, which began a year ago and is the second-worst on record.
Rwanda, which neighbours Congo and Uganda, is on high alert after the disease spread to the Congolese city Goma.
In Uganda, the vaccination project’s lead researcher Pontiano Kaleebu told Reuters the two-year trial would involve 800 people in Mbarara district.
Participants will be picked from core health workers such as physicians, clinicians, nurses and pharmacists, and non-core personnel: cleaners, mortuary attendants and surveillance, ambulance and burial teams.
“Developing effective vaccines and treatments against Ebola are global public health priorities. In this trial we hope to avail more information to help us work toward a licensed Ebola vaccine,” Kaleebu said.
The trial, by Ugandan and international researchers, is backed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The vaccine involved – Ad26.ZEBOV, MVA-BN-Filo – is manufactured by Belgium-based Janssen Pharmaceutica and researchers will seek to assess safety and ability to provoke an immune response to fight the disease.
Uganda has been hit by multiple outbreaks of Ebola and Marburg, another infectious and high-fatality haemorrhagic fever, in the past.
Deaths from the outbreaks were limited due to quick diagnoses at the Uganda Virus Research Institute and an effective donor-funded response mechanism.