GAVI supports mass vaccination campaign in “meningitis belt”
A young woman in Burkina Faso is vaccinated on 20 September 2010 with the new MenAfriVac vaccine that will protect her against epidemics of Meningitis A. Source: PATH/2010.
Ouagadougou, 6 December 2010 – Safely back in his mother’s arms and still crying from the painful jab of an injection needle, 20-month-old Eric Nabyoure has just earned himself a place in African medical history.
At a special ceremony in Burkina Faso, Eric has become the first baby to receive a powerful new and low-cost vaccine that offers life-long protection from the deadly meningitis a epidemics that periodically devastate the region.
“I have seen sick
people and it is not nice to see,” says Eric’s mother Marguerite, “they’re
really in a lot of pain.”
Mass vaccination campaign
Burkina Faso is the first
stop in a mass vaccination campaign, funded by GAVI, which will see the new MenAfriVac vaccine administered to four million children in Mali and Niger before
targeting the rest of the so-called Meningitis Belt – a swathe of 25 sub-Saharan
countries, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the East, that
account for 95% of the world’s meningococcal meningitis disease burden.
If all of this works like we think it is going to work, then we are going to eliminate these epidemics. Stop. Period.
Marc LaForce, Director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP)
Every few years, epidemics threaten the region’s 500 million inhabitants during the dry season
from December to June. In 1996, a particularly deadly meningococcal disease
struck 250,000 people claiming 25,000 lives and leaving another 50,000 with
disabilities that included brain damage and loss of hearing.
“If all of this works
like we think it is going to work, then we are going to eliminate these
epidemics. Stop. Period,” said Marc LaForce, Director of the Meningitis Vaccine
Project (MVP) – an international partnership involving WHO and PATH and funded
by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Research and development
For the past 10
years, MVP has driven the research and development of a new vaccine that would
be both affordable for developing countries and also resolve the limitations of
existing Meningitis A vaccines, which are only available for over 30-year-olds.
The MenAfriVac meets both demands.
A woman and her child wait to receive their vaccination on September 20, 2010, with the new MenAfriVac vaccine that will protect them against epidemics of Meningitis A. Source: PATH/2010
vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India, is approved for children
aged one year and over and, at US$ 0.50 per dose, is cheap. WHO decided that
the vaccine met international standards of safety and efficacy in June 2010.
An estimated 250
million doses of the new conjugate A vaccine will be needed over 10 years to
innoculate all individuals between one and 29 years of age in the meningitis
“This is a story for
donors, who increasingly need to know that the money which is going into
developing countries is actually having an impact,” said Helen Evans, interim
CEO of the GAVI Alliance, shortly after holding young Eric for his MenAfriVac
immunisation. “This is a good example of something which has a clear and