The Health Minister, Alex Segbefia, has announced that the Ministry will from Wednesday 17th June 2015 begin a nationwide sensitisation programme in Accra  on the impending Ebola vaccine clinical trial.


The programme, according to him, is aimed at educating the public on the nature of vaccine trials against Ebola and to disabuse their minds against the misconceptions and suspicions associated the vaccine.


Mr Segbefia made this known on the floor of Parliament yesterday in a statement on the proposed anti-Ebola vaccine clinical trials in Ghana. He noted that the public education would subsequently also be carried out in the Volta, Brong Ahafo and the Upper East Regions.


Parliament last week ordered that the trial be suspended following concerns raised by some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Volta Regional branch of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and some members of Parliament (MPs) and subsequently invited the Minister  to brief the House.


Mr Segbefia in his statement stressed that no test had been conducted and the vaccines in question have not yet been imported for the exercise to be carried out. He assured that the government would not in any way, at any point put the lives of Ghanaians at risk. "Under no circumstances will the Ministry, or the Government for that matter, approve of any clinical trials that will undermine the health and safety of residents of Hohoe in the Volta Region and the people of Ghana as a whole", he said.


He said  the vaccine in question, cannot cause Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) since it does not replicate in humans due to deletion of its replicating gene. "For the avoidance of doubt, this vaccine does not contain the Ebola virus. I repeat, this vaccine does not contain the Ebola virus and cannot cause the Ebola disease,” he informed members.


Mr Segbefia noted that the rational for conducting the trial in Ghana took into consideration the fact Ghana bordered the affected countries, adding that the design of the Phase II trial would be such that in the event of an outbreak persons already vaccinated would be protected.


He pointed out that Hohoe was chosen for the trial because it was an internationally recognised name in clinical research, adding that over 30 clinical trials including phase I, phase II and phase III studies of oncho drugs, malaria drugs and others were conducted at the Centre.


The Minister explained that the process of choosing the researcher and a research Centre to carry out clinical trials was the prerogative of the Sponsor and its agents and not government or the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA). He noted that countries involved in the proposed Phase II trial of the GSK vaccine in addition to Ghana include Nigeria, Cameroun, Senegal and Mali.


He said  the Phase I studies of the trial vaccine was conducted at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda Maryland, USA Oxford University in the UK, Centre for Vaccine Development in Mali  with different dosages of the vaccine to assess its safety and immunogenicity in humans. The Minister conceded that implementation of the programme for stakeholder consultations and community engagement had not been as thorough as one would have expected, hence, the suspension of the trial.


Mr Segbefia assured the legislators that the Ministry, under his leadership, "will do what is right," adding that Ghana has the intellectual capacity, infrastructure and track record to support such a clinical trial. “We will do what has to be done to make sure that the good people of Ghana are protected. We will do what is right to ensure that in the medium and long term Ghanaians are safe from emerging diseases such as Ebola", he said.


Mr Segbefia also promised to brief the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health  on the findings and  outcome of the community engagement in order to  ensure that in the medium and long term, Ghanaians are safe from emerging diseases like Ebola.


Source: ISD (Gilbert Ankrah &Raymond Kwofei)

Created: 17 June 2015
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