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Scientific Trial Crusader Wouldn’t Join Search for COVID-19 Vaccine

Lukyamuzi now prides in being taught health living and preaches the same to the people in his newfound social worker role. To date, when a study comes up he sits on a community committee that links researchers to participants. Lukyamuzi has, in essence, become a vaccines crusader in the community.
HIV vaccine participant Fred Lukyamuzi.

Audio 5

Fourteen years after participating in a botched trial, Fred Lukyamuzi prides in making a contribution towards the search for an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine. Lukyamuzi, now 45, was only 29 years when he joined the study at Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe, a move that has since changed him from being a teacher then to a social worker now. 

At the time, the research entity conducted this phase II trial in partnership with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) as part of a bigger international study that involved participants in South Africa, Europe and Asia to assess the safety of an injectable vaccine among HIV negative participants. In Uganda, 91 volunteers participated who were picked from adults aged 18 to 40 years. 

Likuamuzi didn’t accept immediately when the proposal was made but a counsellor friend lured him with the perks that come with participation, he would then go in for a marathon of counselling sessions and dozens of tests including those for HIV, hepatitis, and blood grouping which lasted up to two weeks before eventual injection.

//Cue in; “I picked interest…  

Cue out…that particular time.” //  

A resident of Kisubi, Lukyamuzi had to go to the Institute for more than three years and sometimes twice every month for a review of whether what he had been injected with was making any changes to his body.   

He didn’t know he had only been injected with a placebo, a medicine-less liquid until 18 months after initiation when researchers told him, he was enrolled on the arm of the study that had no drug to establish the difference in effect with those that had received an active vaccine. Neither did he establish who the other participants were.  

//Cue in; “They had to…  

Cue out…and the participants.”//   

He remembers being heckled in the community for being a guinea pig, owing to the widespread negative publicity among the public. He says he initially feared that they had been injected with the live HIV just like other vaccines are made to enable the receiver to develop immunity. He says the researchers had to do a lot of explanations even as he looked forward to enjoying perks like health insurance for up to three years and having to benefit from the periodic health checks.

//Cue in; “We thought that…      

Cue out…Was under worry.”//    

He now prides in being taught health living and preaches the same to the people in his newfound social worker role. To date, when a study comes up he sits on a community committee that links researchers to participants. Lukyamuzi has, in essence, become a vaccines crusader in the community. 

He says whenever an effective vaccine comes, he will celebrate as a hero, although the latest attempt that had given some hope in 2016 ended in deep disappointment this February when it’s sponsor the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases halted it for not being able to prevent infections among participants.   

//Cue in; “I benefited at least…

Cue out… of the research.”//  

Ironically he wouldn’t participate in a COVID -19 trial even as it has affected more people in a very short time and the World Health Organization is rallying as many countries as possible on the African continent to join in the Global Solidarity Treatment trial which also gives way for a search of a vaccine.  

In Africa, less than five countries have shown interest in participating and concerns of Africans being used as guinea pigs for experimentation have often come up. Asked if he would participate, Lukyamuzi said no.    

//Cue in; “The answer is…     

Cue out…. An economic war.” //   

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