Ghana will in 2022 commence a phase 1trial of a Lassa fever vaccine after approval from the Ghana Health Service Ethical Review Committee, Navrongo Health Research Centre Institutional Review Board and the Ghana Food and Drug Authority.
The vaccine which has already undergone pre-clinical studies and safe to try on humans would be tested on 100 community members from Kintampo in the Bono East Region and Navrongo in the Upper East region.
The trial would evaluate the safety of the vaccine in humans. Further testing would be done subsequently before final approval of the vaccine for use by the general public.
If approved, it would serve as an effective tool for many countries which are experiencing outbreaks of the Lassa Fever Virus.
Dr Patrick OdumAnsah, Acting Director of the Navrongo Health Research Centre(NHRC),in an interview with a team of journalists from the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) on the centre’s activities, said the goal of the trial was to assess the safety, efficacy, tolerability and immunogenity of the vaccine against the disease.
He said participants in the trials would be screened, vaccinated and observed with daily phone calls from a follow-up team.
“The follow-up is to monitor progress and ensure that adverse events are promptly identified and treated and reported to the FDA to ensure complete assessment of the vaccine” he stated.
Criteria for selection, DrAnsahindicated, was a person with no underlying health condition, a non-vaccinated person with a coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) vaccine or any other vaccine and most importantly, the participant should be at least 18 years or above.
He explained the importance of conducting trials on vaccines before use, saying; “it gives the participant country the ability to know how the vaccine is developed and whether it is safe for use. It also ensures the country gets easier access to procure the vaccines once they are approved and licenced.”
“Clinical trials help answer questions about a vaccine’s safety and efficacy,” he noted, saying that vaccine trials were critical for continuous development and deployment of vaccines for control of diseases.”
Currently, Dr Ansah said, there was no vaccine available for the Lassa fever and that early diagnosis, supportive care, symptomatic treatment and early use of ribavirin were the main options for treating patients.
The Ghana Health Service in February 2021 issued an alert of the likelihood of outbreak of Lassa fever in the country.
The disease is said to have already affected several countries in West Africa, including Benin, Guinea, Liberia and Mali.
Lassa fever is an animal-borne, acute haemorrhagic viral illness that is endemic to West Africa. The disease is spread via contact with infected rodents or bodily fluids from infected individuals.
Though 80 percent of the disease are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, the infection can be quiet serious or fatal.
The incubation period is 6-12 days and its symptoms commonly presents itself with fever, general weakness and malaise at the early onset.
FROM BENEDICTA GYIMAAH FOLLEY, NAVRONGO