Uganda has received another consignment of Ebola trial vaccines despite the setbacks in circumstances around the trial design. On Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Uganda Country Director, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam handed over the trial vaccines to Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng in the presence of officials from Uganda Lung Institute, the National Medical Stores, and the National Drug Authority.
The consignment included two perks, both constituting 4160. One perk included 2160 doses of the rSSV-Merc-IAVI from the United Kingdom while the other included 2000 doses of the ChadOx1 produced by Oxford University in conjunction with Jenner Institute in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India.
The delivery follows an earlier one on December 8th, 2022, of 1200 doses manufactured by the SABIN Institute of the United States of America. Briefing journalists about the trial ever since the delivery of the first consignments, Minister Aceng and Dr. Bruce Kirenga, head of Uganda Lung Institute, the implementing agency explained that the trial had experienced a setback in that it had been designed to be carried out involving survivors and exposed persons or contacts.
However, the period by which they would be eligible for the vaccine had elapsed before they could be jabbed and there were no new contacts.
Dr. Kirenga explained that this meant, the Uganda expert team had to refer to the WHO expert panel to explain the circumstances. Accordingly, a new design would have to be drawn that essentially allows the trial team to test the vaccine on any other candidates apart from those that had been designated.
This, he said meant seeking new protocol approval from the global panel, which Minister Aceng said would be convening on January 12th, 2023. Aceng said this did not mean the current protocol providing for trial on contacts and exposed persons would be thrown to the dustbin but could work alongside any new protocols.
Participation in the trial is entirely voluntary but vaccines are only available to those participating in the study and not the general public. The trial assesses safety, capacity to make the body generate antibodies, and efficacy against the disease.
Dr. Woldermariam said the capacity Uganda had developed in dealing with Ebola and organizing Ebola vaccine trials was not only a breakthrough for the country but for the entire world. Aceng dismissed fears of the vaccines getting expired before trial. She said they had a life span of more than two years.
Uganda on September 2nd, 202 declared an Ebola outbreak in the county, with the epicenter being Mubende and Kassanda districts. The epidemic later spread to seven other districts of Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Kyegewa, Mityana, Luweero, and Kabarole.
However, a robust test and trace campaign by the Ministry of Health managed to contain the spread with a complete lockdown in Mubende and Kassanda, which had big numbers of infections and contacts. By the end of the ordeal, fifty-six deaths had been registered and 142 confirmed cases as of December 4th, 2022.
The country now is counting 42 days since the last confirmed case was registered, following which the country will be declared Ebola-free if no new cases surface by January 10th, 2023.