Pune-made Vaccine a Boon for West Africa
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10 June 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Three of Africa’s biggest nations have recorded a dramatic fall in the number of Meningitis A cases ever recorded, thanks to a made–in–India vaccine. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger introduced this vaccine about six months ago. About 20 million people have been vaccinated since then.
Meningitis, an infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, has been one of Africa’s most feared health threats. It took Pune’s Serum Institute of India (SII) Ltd 10 years to create MenAfriVac, a conjugate single–dose vaccine. It costs only 40 cents, and is likely to protect those vaccinated for about 10 years.
Surveillance data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), announced on Thursday, showed just four confirmed cases of Meningitis A from Burkina Faso. No confirmed cases were reported from Mali and Niger (4). All the affected were unvaccinated. In comparison, by May 2010, Burkina Faso had recorded 66 cases of meningitis A, Niger (219) and Mali (10). More than 25 African nations have decided to introduce this Indian vaccine.
On Thursday, journal "Health Affairs" published that introducing the vaccine in seven highly endemic African countries could save $300 million over a decade and prevent the outbreak of a million cases. The antibiotic treatment isn’t of much help since at least 10% patients die, and another 20% are left with brain damage, deafness and epilepsy.
"The vaccine confers longterm protection and induces immunity in certain non–vaccinated persons who live in proximity of those who are immunized, leading to broad community protection," Dr S S Jadhav, executive director of SII, said. It protects children as young as one–year old, and is expected to reduce infection and transmission.