Alex Segbefia, Minister of Health

Alex Segbefia, Minister of Health

The Health Minister, Alex Segbefia, has announced that his Ministry will from Wednesday June 17, 2015 begin a nationwide sensitization 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 with the vaccine.

The Minister made this known on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday when he responded to an urgent call from the House for a brief on the proposed anti-Ebola vaccine clinical trials in Ghana.

He noted that the public education will subsequently 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) subsequently invited the Minister for a brief on the situation.

Mr. Segbefia, in his statement stressed that, not a single test has so far been conducted and the vaccines in question have not been imported yet for the exercise to be carried out.

Alex Segbefia assured that the government will 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.

According to him 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.

He noted that the rational for conducting the trial in Ghana takes into consideration the fact that Ghana borders the affected countries, adding that the design of the Phase II trial will be such that in the event of an outbreak persons already vaccinated would be already protected.

He said Hohoe was chosen for the trial because it is an internationally recognized name in clinical research and that over 30 clinical trials including phase l, phase ll and phase lll studies of oncho drugs, malaria drugs and others were conducted there.

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 1 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 has not been as thorough as one would have expected hence the suspension of the trial.

He assured that the Ministry of Health, 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 informed members.

Source: Spy News Agency

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