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MHRP Profiles: Ebola Vaccine Trial Participant
Jackson Otim Oyugi is a soft spoken and multi-talented gentleman. He is also is a first cousin to Dr. Mathew Lukwiya, the first medical officer to die in the line of duty during Uganda’s first Ebola outbreak in Gulu district in August, 2000. Jackson is participating in the first phase I Ebola/Marburg vaccine clinical trial on the African continent. The Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP) in Uganda is conducting the vaccine trial.
MUWRP’s Lillian Mutengu caught up with Jackson on his last clinic visit to chat about his experience in the vaccine trial. Below are excerpts from the discussion.
Lillian: Who is Otim?
Otim: [Smiles] My name is Otim Jackson Oyugi, I am 31 years old. I work for Ideal Solutions, a company that offers media services. Aside from that, I’m an artiste and act for film, stage, street theatre and radio. I am also a playwright and church usher.
Lillian: So Otim, you are one of our participants in the Ebola/Marburg vaccine trial. What attracted you to join the study?
Otim: My joining this study goes back a long way. Ebola claimed the life of a close relative of mine, Dr. Lukwiya Mathew, who died in the line of duty. [Dr. Lukwiya was a Medical Officer at the Gulu District Hospital where he contracted the disease while caring for those infected with Ebola]. When that happened…it kind of sounds like a Hollywood script of sorts [chuckles]…I said I would give back to make sure that a cure or treatment for this disease is found. Participating to finding a vaccine for this deadly disease was a way for me to make a contribution.
Lillian: How has your experience been?
Otim: I suppose it has been okay, all said and done. I was told, for example, I got the real experimental vaccine and it’s been quite interesting, I think.
(In a clinical trial, participants are randomly assigned to two groups—one group receives the experimental vaccine and the other group receives an inactive substance called a placebo. A placebo is a harmless substance used as a control in testing investigational drugs.)
Lillian: How interesting?
Otim: Interesting because I thought…wow, Mathew, this is something I could do for the cause. Having got the “real deal”…it was a great feeling and I only wish I could do more.
Lillian: Ok. Lets go back to before you were unblinded, (before you were told you got the vaccine and not the placebo); how did you feel about the whole process of joining the first vaccine trial on the continent against one of the most deadly viruses in the world?
Otim: When we came in for the briefing, we were told that much as it’s the first time its being conducted on the African soil, its been thoroughly tested in the United states. Though it’s a little daunting obviously, for lack of a better word. But like I said, the doctors were open in giving us information even when some of us asked annoying questions. Much as there was that little nagging fear at the back of my mind, I refused to pay much attention to it because I felt re-assured.
Lillian: Did you share information about your participation in the study with your family?
Otim: All people at home knew.
Lillian: And they were supportive?
Otim: Yes. Everybody knew about Mathew and all that. So, they did not object. They were only waiting to see the outcome and now, at the end of the study, they are much more excited than they were at the beginning.
Lillian: So when you got your first shot and went back home, did you tell them you got vaccinated?
Lillian: How did they react?
Otim: My mum particularly was a little worried, but I re-assured her that we would be monitored. After getting the vaccine, I remember that day, I went with people from here [MUWRP] to my home so that in case of any emergency arising from the vaccination, they said they would come right back for me. All that made me feel confident and re-assured my mum.
Lillian: How did you feel after the first injection?
Otim: There was nothing out of the ordinary. I did not fall, or become weak.
Lillian: Any other experience you would like to share with me about your study participation?
Otim: On the whole, it’s been a great experience.
Lillian: Good to hear. Thank you for accepting to participate.
As told by Jackson Otim Oyugi
Finding a vaccine is a long process—it goes through several stages before it’s approved for use. The first step, phase I, is to determine the safety of the vaccine. This Ebola/Marburg vaccine is currently in the very early stages of testing; it has already been proved safe in trials in the U.S. MUWRP is conducting the Ebola/Marburg vaccine in affiliation with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program and the U.S. National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Vaccine Research Center (VRC), where the vaccine was developed.