From the Ebola outbreak in 2014 to the growing Zika epidemic in 2016, outbreaks of deadly infectious diseases of global concern are inevitable and increasingly frequent.
In countries with low investment in health systems, the risks that a limited outbreak may become a full-scale epidemic--or even a global pandemic--are real, especially when encountering a new or emerging disease.
But the standard approaches to medical research and development--for new vaccines, medicines and diagnostics--are ill-suited to cope with outbreak situations. Such situations demand fast, scientifically rigorous action, and a high level of community engagement. New approaches and new technologies are needed to address the ever-growing threats of emerging infectious diseases.
Grameen Foundation is helping to address this challenge. In Sierra Leone, we are using digital technology to help facilitate the clinical trial of an investigational vaccine against Ebola, one of the deadliest infectious diseases on earth.
Sierra Leone was hit hard by the Ebola outbreak in 2014-15. But in a country where there is an extreme shortage of healthcare workers, and people’s trust in the healthcare system has been badly shaken, many challenges must be overcome to successfully develop and deploy an Ebola vaccine.
Through our participation in the EBODAC Consortium, Grameen Foundation is helping to facilitate a clinical trial for an investigational two-dose vaccine against Ebola. EBODAC has already created new ways to strengthen and support clinical trials in low-resource settings vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
Grameen Foundation is using digital technology and mobile phones to ensure widespread and timely communication with clinical trial volunteers in poor, rural areas. Volunteers receive scheduled messages on their phones, informing them of appointments and conveying health information. The system also compiles data for clinics, helping the centers to track volunteer participation.
EBODAC also employs community extensive engagement strategies, and uses biometric technologies to identify volunteers who may not have an official form of ID. Taken together, these measures ensure that the right person receives the right vaccine at the right time.
EBODAC is a collaboration of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, World Vision Ireland, and Grameen Foundation. EBODAC was set up as part of the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiatives Ebola+ Programme.
To learn about Grameen Foundation’s participation in the EBODAC vaccine clinical trial, watch this video.