Indian vaccine to save 250 million lives in Africa

March 1st, 2011 - 4:11 pm ICT by IANS  

By Francis Kokutse
Accra (Ghana), March 1 (IANS) 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 PATH.

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 fkokutse@hotmail.com)

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