Research and Innovations
The Race for an Ebola Vaccine
By late October, 2014, there were already 10,000 cases of Ebola. Half of the people infected died. The number of cases and deaths were continuing to rise. Many experts thought a vaccine may be the only thing to stop the outbreak. But vaccine development can take years—time that West Africa did not have.
WHO held an emergency meeting with experts from around the world to find a solution. These experts agreed to go ahead with clinical trials as quickly as possible. Within a week, CDC staff was in Sierra Leone as a member of the team planning the STRIVE vaccine clinical trial.
Large trials of the same vaccine studied in STRIVE were also conducted in Guinea and Liberia. The three trials used different approaches to study the vaccine, and all produced important information.
STRIVE: CDC’s Role in the Race for a Vaccine
Launched in April, 2015, the Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola (STRIVE) was a collaboration with CDC, the Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, and the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation. The vaccine trial tested an Ebola vaccine among healthcare and other frontline workers in five districts of Sierra Leone that had been heavily affected by the outbreak.
This vaccine might be an important part of the Ebola prevention toolkit that public health officials and the world are so eager for. The study also strengthened research in Sierra Leone’s institutions by providing training and research experience to hundreds of Sierra Leonean staff. Other parts of STRIVE’s work will also live on for the future, such as renovating old structures and building new ones to enroll and vaccinate participants, handle data management, and store the vaccine.
On April 9, 2015, the first person in Sierra Leone received the vaccine. More than 8,650 healthcare and frontline workers enrolled in STRIVE. By the end of the trial, about 8,000 people were vaccinated.
Amy Callis describes her role in communication and social mobilization for STRIVE in Sierra Leone.
STRIVE regularly talked to local community leaders in each of the districts. These conversations began months before the STRIVE started and continued every six weeks. As a result, STRIVE had a very strong relationship with the community.
Vaccine Side Effects & Digital Thermometer Use
Fever was a common side effect after vaccination. STRIVE participants received a digital thermometer so they could take their temperatures. Because digital thermometers are not common in Sierra Leone, participants also received an illustrated instructions.
STRIVE was the first vaccine clinical trial ever in Sierra Leone. Many trial staff were unfamiliar with clinical trial safety procedures. CDC developed fact sheets to help staff work safely and reinforce training.
PREVAIL Study, Liberia
Launched in early 2015, The Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia or PREVAIL was a partnership between the Liberian Government and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). This clinical trial of about 1500 participants assessed the safety and immune response of two vaccine candidates called rVSV-ZEBOV and ChAd3.
Vaccine Trial Results
The three vaccine trials in West Africa generated positive information about the safety, efficacy, and immune response of the vaccine. This information will be considered by regulatory authorities like FDA when making decisions about licensing the vaccine.
Because of the work of the teams that conducted STRIVE and other vaccine and treatment trials, we are much further along in our quest for a safe and effective vaccine to prevent Ebola as well as ways to treat it. Ebola is not gone. The world will probably see another outbreak someday. However, now we have tools to help stop Ebola from ever claiming so many lives again.
The following oral history is of Dr. Jane Seward, who currently works as the senior advisor to STRIVE, which is the Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola.