MBARARA, UGANDA - Eight hundred health workers involved in the fight against the Ebola virus are receiving doses of a two-part vaccine.
Researchers who launched a trial this week for a new Ebola vaccine say the new vaccine trial will take two years to complete.
Dr. Juliet Mwanga, director of the Mbarara Research Center, said the vaccine combines antigen — a substance that induces an immune response in the body — from the Ebola virus, a common adenovirus, and the vaccinia Ankara vaccine.
The new vaccine is manufactured by U.S.-based Janssen and Janssen company.
"This J and J vaccine aims at prevention — primary prevention before you have contact at all," said Mwanga. "And the other difference, as I said, it has two parts. So, you're given the first dose, and 56 days later, you get another dose, which boosts your immunity. So, hopefully it works for a longer time."
Currently, Uganda is using an Ebola vaccine by the Merck pharmaceutical company, but Mwanga said they need to try out new vaccines, too.
Uganda's move is motivated by its proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 1,800 people have died from an Ebola outbreak that began a year ago.
Dr. Kimton Opio, the coordinator of the trial, said the vaccine is being tested on 800 health care workers and front-line support workers who meet a few basic requirements.
"Someone has to be 18 years and over," he said. " Then, of course, they have to be able to sign the [consent] form. Then they must not have been vaccinated with Ebola before, or they must have not suffered from Ebola before."
The researchers are hopeful the vaccine, if effective, will help Uganda and neighboring countries that have endured Ebola outbreaks.
Uganda has seen no new cases of Ebola in recent weeks. But, health officials have been on high alert since June, when two adults and a five-year-old boy who had crossed into Uganda from the DRC died of the virus.