Ebola trial vaccine participant happy with results

Six months after participating in the Ebola trial vaccines, Dr. Francis Karteh said he is healthy and shows no signs of complications stemming from the vaccine. The United Methodist doctor indicated that the 1,500 Liberians who took the vaccines are better prepared to withstand any attack from the current Ebola virus strand than those who did not take it.

“My immune system has improved as a result of the vaccine, and if attacked by the Ebola virus, my body will fight back and I will not be overcome by it,” said Karteh, who is a member of Stephen Trowen Nagbe United Methodist Church.  Although the trial vaccines are not yet perfect, participating in the process was the best contribution any Liberian could have made in helping the global community to fight the deadly Ebola virus, the health ministry official said.

Karteh took the vaccine in February to encourage others to take part in the trials.

Karteh cannot say which of the two vaccines he took, since the trials are blind. However, he added that since the trials in Guinea have gone so well, it is not clear if the vaccine trials in Liberia will go into the third phase. The Phase II trials of the two most advanced vaccines – VSB-EBOV and ChAd3-ZEBOV – were completed in Liberia.

Trials of the single dose VSV-EBOV vaccine in Guinea have shown such promise that the World Health Organization decided to extend vaccination to all people at risk after close contact with an infected person.

Participants being tested

Now serving as chief medical officer of Liberia, Karteh said the Ebola vaccines trial process is at the level where participants’ blood samples are tested to determine the vaccines’ impact. Karteh, whose blood sample was taken on Aug. 21, said the test result would help him understand his personal ability to fight the Ebola virus.

“I am sure this is not a license for me and other Liberians who participated in the Ebola trial vaccines process to be reckless with our lives, thinking that the virus will not harm us,” Karteh warned. “We can only fight and resist the Ebola virus strand that is presently in Liberia.” Once the blood samples are tested, participants must wait six month for another test.

Although the Ebola trial vaccinations were planned initially for 900 people, 1,500 individuals came voluntarily to the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, a suburb of Monrovia. According to the chief medical officer, the people are now being tested for any complications they may have developed in the last six months.

“As a doctor and a United Methodist, my role in this Ebola trial vaccines process has been and still is one of encouragement,” Karteh said. He indicated that once the test vaccine results are positive, Liberia would have contributed to finding a solution to the global health crisis imposed by the Ebola virus.

Karteh, is the former chief medical officer of the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County, northern Liberia, and former administrator of the Ganta United Methodist Hospital also in Nimba County. Today he works with two other United Methodists in managing the health sector of the Republic of Liberia. They are Dr. Bernice T. Dahn of Tubman United Methodist Church, who is also the minister of health and social welfare, and Torbor Nyenswah of Trinity United Methodist Church.

*Swen is editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa and assists the denomination in Liberia with coverage for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469.

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