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Ebola Vaccine Trial Begins in Sierra Leone: CDC

Roughly 6,000 health workers will get shots in country hit hard by current outbreak

TUESDAY, April 14, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine has been launched in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The trial, which will include 6,000 health and other frontline workers in five districts of the country, is designed to assess the safety and effectiveness of an experimental Ebola vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV.

The vaccine uses a harmless virus that carries a non-infectious Ebola virus gene. The vaccine cannot cause Ebola, but is meant to trigger an immune system reaction against the deadly disease. The vaccine was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics, which then entered into a licensing agreement with Merck Co.

"A safe and effective vaccine would be a very important tool to stop Ebola in the future, and the frontline workers who are volunteering to participate are making a decision that could benefit health care professionals and communities wherever Ebola is a risk," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in an agency news release.

"We hope this vaccine will be proven effective, but in the meantime we must continue doing everything necessary to stop this epidemic -- find every case, isolate and treat, safely and respectfully bury the dead, and find every single contact," he added.

The five districts in Sierra Leone where the vaccine will be tested have been hit hard by the Ebola outbreak in the past few months. Participants will receive the vaccine either as soon as they enter the trial or six months after enrollment. Researchers will compare the rates of Ebola in those who are vaccinated and those who have not yet received the vaccine.

Because it's not known if the vaccine is effective, participants are being told to continue to take full preventive measures to protect themselves from Ebola, including the use of all recommended personal protective equipment and adhering to all safety protocols and procedures.

"We are happy to be partnering with [the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation] and CDC on this important study, which may help to prevent future cases of Ebola," lead investigator Mohamed Samai, acting provost of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, said in the news release.

"It brings me hope and pride that my country can take from this devastating epidemic something that may benefit people around the world," Samai added.

The vaccine is also being tested in trials in other parts of Africa, Canada, Europe and the United States.

More than 25,500 cases of Ebola have been reported since the outbreak began last spring, with more than 10,500 deaths, according to the latest CDC statistics.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Ebola.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, April 14, 2015
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