A large-scale trial of two potential Ebola vaccines has begun in Liberia as part of a global effort to prevent a repeat of the epidemic that has killed nearly 9,000 people in West Africa.
The study got under way Monday at a hospital in the capital, Monrovia, with about 600 volunteers taking part in the first phase.
The trial is a collaboration between the United States and Liberia. The study involves two Ebola vaccines that contain harmless fragments of the virus that trigger an immune response. It has been determined that the potential vaccines, made by two U.S.-based drug companies, are safe for use in humans in smaller trials in several countries.
American researchers and Liberian officials explained the trial to reporters in Monrovia Monday and sought to reassure Liberians it is safe.
Liberian health official Dr. Fredrick Ketty said this is a chance to make history.
"A small country that would have been completely wiped out because of Ebola now is turning the reverse to saving the entire world. Can you imagine? Can you imagine what will happen?" he asked.
Organizers of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, aim to enlist a total of around 27,000 healthy men and women for the trial.
Researchers are moving at record speed to develop a vaccine in response to the unprecedented Ebola outbreak centered on Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
More than 22,000 people have been infected, although the number of new cases has dropped sharply in recent weeks.