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Barthalomew Wilson, Speaker at Vaccine Research Conference
PREVAIL, Liberia
Title : Insights from local voices: Informing Lassa fever vaccine trial implementation through community engagement


Lassa fever is a public health threat, with an estimated 500,000 cases reported annually in West Africa. The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Partnership for Research on Vaccines and Infectious Diseases in Liberia (PREVAIL) launched a phase 1 Lassa fever vaccine trial, supported by CEPI. This paper discusses insights from community listening sessions in Liberia aimed at gathering perspectives on Lassa fever and the implementation of the trial.

Methods: Liberian researchers conducted eight focus group discussions with 199 community representatives aged 16–70 in Montserrado County, using a semi-structured discussion guide, to inform community engagement strategies and messaging for a Lassa fever vaccine trial. PREVAIL, with the support of community leaders, identified participants from across the four (4) health sectors in Montserrado County between April 2021 and February 2022.

Results: Participants expressed a need for more awareness and education about Lassa fever in Liberia, describing their knowledge as limited or nonexistent. While many recalled the PREVAIL Ebola vaccine trial, awareness of other vaccine trials in Liberia was absent, indicating limited experience beyond the PREVAL study. Participants cited fear, distrust, lack of information, negative rumors, and concerns about the risks and side effects of the trial vaccine as potential barriers to participating in a Lassa fever vaccine trial.

Conclusion: These findings underscore community dialogue, education on Lassa fever, the risks and benefits of vaccines, and meaningful community involvement in vaccine trials. A collaborative approach that respects community perspectives and fosters trust is essential for local acceptance and participation in Lassa fever vaccine trials.