Skip to main content

World Largest-ever trial of second Ebola vaccine launched in Uganda

Researchers in Uganda have launched the largest-ever trial of the experimental Ebola vaccine that is expected to be deployed in neighbouring Congo, where a deadly outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people.

The trial of the Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine involves up to 800 people in the western district of Mbarara and is supported by Doctors without Borders and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Pontiano Kaleebu, a Ugandan researcher who leads the trial, said Friday that he regrets that the Janssen vaccine has not yet been deployed in Congo. The health minister there who stepped down last month had argued against its deployment, saying a second vaccine could create confusion on the ground.

Story continues below advertisement

Already more than 180,000 people in Congo’s year-long outbreak have received an experimental but effective Merck vaccine, but health experts worry about the availability of doses as the virus now spreads in a major city, Goma, along the Rwanda border. The wife and 1-year-old daughter of the man who died this week of Ebola in Goma now have the disease.

Both the wife and child were doing well in treatment, Congo’s new Ebola response co-ordinator, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, told reporters on Friday.

But he warned that about half of the cases in this outbreak are going undetected and at that rate “this epidemic could last two or three years.” The current goal is to strengthen surveillance and bring the detection rate to 80 per cent, he said.

Health experts have watched with dismay as the promise of the Merck vaccine in this outbreak has been largely overshadowed by severe challenges to virus containment efforts, including rebel attacks and community resistance in a part of Congo that had never experienced Ebola before.

The Janssen vaccine has already been tested in about 6,000 people, most of them Africans, Mr. Kaleebu said. “We are excited about this [trial] … because this is one of the promising vaccines,” he said. “It’s one of those vaccines that have shown a lot of promise in animal studies but also in other trials that have been conducted.”

Ugandan researchers said the new trial is expected to last two years and will test how long any protection from Ebola would last. Juliet Mwanga, a co-investigator on the trial, said there is the need “to study many vaccines” in light of Congo’s epidemic.

Uganda has had multiple Ebola outbreaks in the past. While it is currently free of the virus, three people died in June after crossing into the country’s Kasese district on an unguarded footpath. Their family members were taken back to Congo for treatment.

Story continues below advertisement

The Ebola virus can spread quickly and be fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. The virus is most often spread by close contact with bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms and with contaminated objects such as sheets. Health-care workers are often at risk.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter