Freetown, May, 26, 016 (MOHS) – Acting Health and Sanitation Minister, Madam Madina Rahman has officially opened a three-day Sub-Regional Collaborative Conference on Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Vaccine and Therapeutic Trial on Thursday May 26, 2016 at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel Conference Centre in Freetown.
Group photo of participants including Acting Health Minister, Madina Rahman
It could be recalled that the first Sub-Regional Collaboration Meeting was held in Conakry, Guinea from 11-12 June 2015. The event occurred almost 18 months after the first case of the Ebola virus disease was diagnosed in the sub-region. This session established the foundation to share EVD-related technology and collaborate on research, prevention and clinical care.
Making her opening statement, Madam Madina Rahman congratulated the organizers of the conference as it underpins the importance of strengthening and maintaining sub-regional research capacity as an essential preparedness tool for Global Health Security.
She recalled some two years ago when the EVD epidemic struck the sub-region and exposed the weakened health care system and the absence of clinical research capacity particularly with regards to vaccine and therapeutic trails.
Madam Rahman reiterated that the availability of effective vaccines and definitive therapeutic will dramatically strengthen the ability to combat the Ebola virus disease, adding that a conference like this where advances in vaccine and therapeutic trails to combat EVD will be discussed is timely as they cannot afford not to have effective vaccines and therapeutics should EVD strike again.
She stated that during the past decade, research has been conducted to develop drugs and vaccines against EVD, adding that some of these have shown promising results in laboratory and animal models and very recently in humans. She added that these agents are currently undergoing trials in the sub-region, so it is but proper that scientists, ethicists and other stakeholders come together to discuss these trials and share experiences.
The Acting Minister said the objective of the conference is to create a forum for scientists, researchers, ethicists, community members, policy makers and research-related stakeholders to come together, discuss and develop common positions on the numerous challenging medical, ethical, psycho-social and community related issues regarding the impacts of EVD on the three most affected countries.
The Deputy Secretary General, Mano River Union (MRU), Mrs. Lynda Koroma reminded her audience about the Ebola outbreak and its effect on three of the four member states of the Mano River Union that were severely affected by the disease which became a public health, humanitarian and socio-economic crisis with devastating impact on families and communities. Essential services, especially health and education, Madam Koroma told her audience compromised and the economies weakened.
She said at the wake of the epidemic the Mano River Union Secretariat was the first to provide financial support to Member States towards sensitization programmes to educate citizenry regarding the virus. The Secretariat, she further explained organized series of technical, ministerial Summits of Heads of State and Government to ensure that a sub-regional approach to fighting the outbreak is adopted which yielded dividend as the outbreak continued.
Madam Koroma reiterated the need to put robust systems in place to ensure that mechanisms are in place for any future outbreak noting that health practitioners have reminded us that we should be prepared to live with Ebola.
The idea of securing a vaccine for the effective treatment of the virus, she said is a welcome idea, adding that to assess how effective these have been and to share lessons learnt is equally very important for the therapeutic clinical trials conducted.
Other highlights include statements from the West African College of Physicians, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines, Centre for Disease Control, and representatives from Guinea and Liberia and the World Health Organization (WHO). Presentations on the Study of EVD Survivors and close contacts by Dr. Mosoka Fallah from Liberia, and the Sierra Leone Trial to introduce a vaccine Ebola (STRIVE) by Dr. Mohamed Samai, and several others formed part of the first session of the conference which attracted many stakeholders.