PREVAIL Taking To Communities, As LCP heightens outreach activities

A Field Communicator speaking to the media

Public acceptance of the PREVAIL Ebola research studies has been exceptional so far given the nature of responses from community dwellers across the country.

PREVAIL is a joint Liberia-US clinical research program established in 2014 in response to a request by former Liberian Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwinnegale to then US Health and Human Services Secretary, Sylvia Burwell to assist Liberia develop vaccines and therapeutics to tackle Ebola.

On Tuesday during a field visit in the Duala area in Montserrado sector two by a team of monitors from the Liberia Crusaders for Peace, many residents spoke positively about the work of PREVAIL.

LCP Monitors and Communicators

Since launching its first vaccine study in 2015, PREVAIL has so far being involved in 6 major studies about the Ebola Virus Disease including several other sub studies in Liberia.

The resident were happy that the US-Liberia clinical research partnership has come in an attempt to find lasting solutions to the scourge of Ebola that has struck Liberia and her nearby neighbours to devastating effect.

Key messages are being provided on the ongoing PREVAIL 5 vaccine study, which seeks to enrol about 5000 participants including children between the ages of 1-17 years old.

The current phase of the vaccine is enrolling children between ages of 12-17. The second phase will enrol above one year old to 11 years old once the data in the first phase proves safe in children. The first vaccine study conducted in 2015 enrolled only adults.

The rationale is to find out whether the vaccine is also effective in children as they are found to be in adults and how long it lasts in the body.

Sick people, breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, Ebola Survivors and people who have taken other vaccines within a month’s time are not allowed to participate in the PREVAIL vaccine study.

Madam Jenneh Kromah is one of those persons who came in contact with an Ebola patient but did not get infected with the virus.

She now sells cooked food in the Gbalaswa community in Duala Bushrod Island.

Madam Kromah said the various PREVAIL research studies are good for Liberia and it will be a proud moment for the country if a vaccine is found for Ebola in Liberia.

“The PREVAIL people been coming been coming around and they told us that the study is good and is also free of charge. They told us about what PREVAIL is doing for the pregnant Ebola survivors (Birth-Cohort study) and the vaccine study at the Redemption Hospital. A lot of people have gone there for the study and things looking ok with them” she added.

The on-going Ebola preventive vaccine study otherwise known as PREVAIL-5 is taking place at the Redemption Hospital in the Borough of New Kru Town.

PREVAIL 5 is jointly being conducted by Liberia and Guinea under the auspices of the West African Regional Consortium.

While in the Balaswa community in Duala Bushrod Island, the Team also visited a ghetto where a group of young men expressed interest in enrolling into the ongoing vaccine study known as PREVAIL 5.

They explain how they have made couple of attempts at the Redemption Hospital to enrol into the study but faced some minor challenges including lack of contact numbers.

Madam Munah Yancy is the field Communicator who has been encouraging those men at the Ghettos, she said though it is challenging but it was necessary for her to get to the people the most in need of the information.

She added “these guys maybe looked down upon in the society but they have been seeking information to enrolment into the PREVAIL studies ranging from the Ebola Natural History Study to the current Vaccine study”.

The Community Chairman of Balaswa Stephen Kaifa also appears knowledgeable of the studies when he spoke to the team that the scientific research will have lasting benefits for the people of Liberia and the rest of the world.

According to him, the research study presents an opportunity for Liberia to make history and as such urged Liberians to take advantage of every opportunity provided by the scientific research being conducted on Ebola.

Unlike in 2015 when there was negative perceptions and myths about the first vaccine study, the PREVAIL-5 has been highly welcomed and accepted in the communities owing to the model of engagement adopted by the joint Liberia-US clinical research partnership.

Much of the success of the study has been largely attributed to the SMC’s community engagement and awareness activities being carried out by the Liberia Crusaders for Peace, a partner of PREVAIL.

The LCP has recruited and deployed over 300 young people including survivors to work as community mobilizers and communicators aimed at garnering public participation in the various Ebola research studies being conducted by PREVAIL in Liberia.

During the tour of Montserrado County Health Sector two, we talked to some of the LCP Communicators and Mobilizers who are the direct foot soldiers doing house to house community mobilization in a bid to garner more public participation into the PREVAIL Ebola research studies being conducted here in Liberia.

Besides the experiences they are picking up in social works, the community based communicators how their involvement with the project has helped change their lives and those of family members economically.

Stanley Weihn, Judi Sukuta and Claudius Tugbeh all of whom are Community based communicators working on the PREVAIL scientific Research Project in sector two Montserrado County to this Paper that the responses from the community dwellers are very encouraging which is a plus for the overall success of the Sprevail Studies.

Contributed by Francis Pelenah, Jr.

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About Cholo Brooks 14468 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.