New meningitis vaccine launched in Burkina Faso for the sub-region
6 December 2010, Ouagadougou. In the next ten days twelve million children and young adults aged from one to twenty-nine years old will receive the new vaccine against meningitis in Burkina Faso. This drive to tackle meningitis, which affected almost 6,000 people nationwide in 2010, was launched by President Blaise Compaoré in the presence of leaders and ministers from other African countries, and organizations involved in the development and roll-out of the vaccine including PATH, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi Alliance, Serum Institute of India, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
Burkina Faso forms part of the Meningitis Belt, a term used to denote the twenty-five countries in Africa, from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, which are prone to meningitis epidemics that have taken a devastating toll on younger populations for over a century. Those infected by the disease can die within 24 to 48 hours after symptoms have developed and the disease may cause brain damage and learning disabilities among those patients who survive. Burkina Faso is the first country to launch a nationwide campaign which will be soon implemented by neighbouring countries Niger and Mali. The aim of this new vaccine, known as MenAfriVac™, is to save lives and provide protection from the group A meningitis strain.
It is estimated that by 2015, the lives of 150,000 young adults will have been saved as a result of the meningitis vaccine. In his address at the campaign launch, the Minister of Health for Burkina Faso, Seydou Bouda, reiterated the country’s commitment to reaching those eligible for vaccination in order to effectively reduce infections, “I can assure you that necessary action will be taken to reach the objective of vaccinating everyone aged from one to twenty-nine years old, which represents seventy percent of the population of Burkina Faso, in ten days,” he stated. He also affirmed that the meningitis vaccine “marks an important step in the elimination of meningitis A in the sub-region.”
The hope is that this new vaccine, which costs less than US$0.50 a dose, will provide African countries with an affordable and safe method of ensuring that their populations are safeguarded against the disease for at least ten years.
The idea of developing a vaccine to overcome meningitis outbreaks began in 2001 with the creation of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a partnership between WHO and PATH, which was supported with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Significant funds for the development of the vaccine were also made available by the GAVI Alliance. The Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest producers of vaccines, developed the vaccine with technology transferred from the United States and the Netherlands and UNICEF contributed with vaccine procurement and medical supplies.
President Blaise Compaoré highlighted the important role of partnerships in the development of the vaccine and in the vaccination campaign. “This meningitis vaccine is the result of all the partners who have worked together”, he said. “The vaccine represents a real hope for African populations to address and overcome health issues which pose a threat to our well-being.”
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