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Times of India
11 June 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India

Meningitis–A Dose Saves Lives In 3 Nations
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 – the three West African countries – were the first to introduce this Indian vaccine about six months ago. About 20 million people have been vaccinated since then.

With the 2010–2011 epidemic season largely over, surveillance data, compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), was announced on Thursday. It showed that just four confirmed cases of Meningitis–A was reported 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).

By May 2009, Burkina Faso had recorded 36 cases of meningitis–A, Niger (1358) and Mali (16). More than 25 African nations – stretching from Ethiopia to Senegal and falling under the region’s infamous Meningitis belt – have decided to introduce this Indian vaccine.

It is targeted to immunize 250million (one–29 years) and 23million infants in Africa between 2010 and 2015. 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.

On Thursday, "Health Affairs" published an analysis that said the introduction of this vaccine in seven highly endemic African countries could save $300 million over a decade and prevent the outbreak of a million cases. Meningitis, an infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, has been one of Africa’s most feared health threats. The antibiotic treatment isn’t of much help since 10% patients die, and another 20% are left with brain damage, deafness and epilepsy.

In 2009, the seasonal outbreak of meningitis across sub–Saharan Africa infected at least 88,000, and led to more than 5,000 deaths. "The vaccine confers long–term 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.

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