Vaccine – Volume 35, Issue 4, Pages 503-712 (23 January 2017)

Volume 35, Issue 4, Pages 503-712 (23 January 2017)

Real-time dynamic modelling for the design of a cluster-randomized phase 3 Ebola vaccine trial in Sierra Leone
Original Research Article
Pages 544-551
A. Camacho, R.M. Eggo, N. Goeyvaerts, A. Vandebosch, R. Mogg, S. Funk, A.J. Kucharski, C.H. Watson, T. Vangeneugden, W.J. Edmunds

Declining incidence and spatial heterogeneity complicated the design of phase 3 Ebola vaccine trials during the tail of the 2013–16 Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa. Mathematical models can provide forecasts of expected incidence through time and can account for both vaccine efficacy in participants and effectiveness in populations. Determining expected disease incidence was critical to calculating power and determining trial sample size.

In real-time, we fitted, forecasted, and simulated a proposed phase 3 cluster-randomized vaccine trial for a prime-boost EVD vaccine in three candidate regions in Sierra Leone. The aim was to forecast trial feasibility in these areas through time and guide study design planning.

EVD incidence was highly variable during the epidemic, especially in the declining phase. Delays in trial start date were expected to greatly reduce the ability to discern an effect, particularly as a trial with an effective vaccine would cause the epidemic to go extinct more quickly in the vaccine arm. Real-time updates of the model allowed decision-makers to determine how trial feasibility changed with time.

This analysis was useful for vaccine trial planning because we simulated effectiveness as well as efficacy, which is possible with a dynamic transmission model. It contributed to decisions on choice of trial location and feasibility of the trial. Transmission models should be utilised as early as possible in the design process to provide mechanistic estimates of expected incidence, with which decisions about sample size, location, timing, and feasibility can be determined.