Accra (Ghana): A new
India-made vaccine against meningitis is to be administered to
nearly 250 million children and adults in sub-Saharan Africa,
thanks to a joint campaign by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
and PATH, an NGO.
MenAfriVac has been produced by the Serum Institute of India and
is to be administered to those in the age group of 1 to 29 in 25
sub-Saharan African countries.
"The conjugate vaccine will quickly reduce the transmission of
meningococcal bacteria and create a drastic drop in illness and
death rates from meningitis," a statement by PATH said.
"In 1996 and 1997, as the largest meningitis epidemic in African
history swept across sub-Saharan Africa, 25,000 people died," said
Already about 20 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in
West Africa which PATH said "are the most affected in the
meningitis belt" are to benefit from the campaign that "will
hopefully spread to the other countries in the region over the
next few years".
PATH said it is cooperating with the WHO "to build evidence for
MenAfriVac's safe use among infants.
"The Meningitis Vaccine Project team expects to receive WHO
prequalification - which brings international regulatory approval
- of the meningitis A conjugate vaccine for infants in 2013,
clearing the way for vaccine use among the youngest people
susceptible to the disease."
The statement said, "MenAfriVac was developed at a major cost
saving - less than one-tenth the cost of the $500 million
typically needed to bring a new vaccine to the market.
"In addition, the reduction in meningitis cases is expected to
free up significant funds in countries that can be used to address
other public health problems."
The development of the vaccine has received assistance from
various other organisations, including the United States Agency
for International Development which, PATH said, "gave significant
funding to analyse the economic costs of meningitis epidemics in
sub-Saharan Africa, improve meningitis surveillance and address
regulatory issues around the vaccine's approval".
In addition, the United States Food and Drug Administration's (FDA)
Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research developed the
technology that the Serum Institute of India used for manufacture.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)