Uganda on Thursday received 1,200 doses of Ebola trial vaccines, officials from the country’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
According to the ministry officials, this is first batch of one of the three candidate vaccines against the Sudan Ebola virus.
The vaccines will be evaluated in a clinical trial called Tokomeza Ebola, according to WHO officials.
“This is a historic day for the country and the world of scientific health research. For the first time, vaccines for clinical trials are produced in less than 90 days after the start of an Ebola outbreak. This is a remarkable effort,” said WHO Uganda incident manager Charles Njuguna.
Dr Njuguna spoke while handing over the vaccines at the country’s National Medical Stores (NMS) offices in Entebbe.
No new cases
And according to Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s Health minister , the East African nation has not registered any new confirmed Ebola case in the last nine days.
“It is nine days today that we have no new cases of Ebola, but that does not mean we are out of the outbreak. Uganda encourages scientists to continue research to support the provision of appropriate drugs and vaccines to prevent future outbreaks,” Dr Aceng said while receiving the trial vaccines.
Since Uganda declared an Ebola outbreak on September 20, cases had spread across the country, including in the capital Kampala.
Uganda has been struggling to rein in the outbreak caused by the Sudan strain of the virus, for which there is currently no vaccine.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last month told reporters that vaccine trials would “soon begin”.
“Since the outbreak began, the government of Uganda, together with researchers, funders, companies, regulatory authorities and other experts have been working under a global effort coordinated by WHO to accelerate the development and deployment of vaccines for use in trials,” Tedros said on November 16.
The candidates include a vaccine developed by Oxford University and the Jenner Institute in Britain, and another from the Sabin Vaccine Institute in the United States.
The third candidate came through the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), WHO said.
Ring vaccination trial
They will be used in a so-called ring vaccination trial, where all contacts of confirmed Ebola patients and contacts of contacts are vaccinated along with frontline health workers.
“We have received written confirmation from the developers that sufficient vaccines and sufficient number of doses will be available for the clinical trial and beyond if necessary,” Ms Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, one of WHO’s heads of research and development, told reporters recently.
Meanwhile, there is concern that progress being made to slow the spread of Ebola even without the jabs could complicate the planned trials.
Such trials can only be run when there is fairly rapid transmission of Ebola underway.