Providing vaccines for children in Africa may be easier if vaccines created for Europe or the U.S. were redesigned for Africa. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) took the first step with the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP). The aim of MVP was to eradicate the meningitis epidemic internationally, with a particular focus on the African countries that had received financial aid from the Gates Foundation.
MVP developed the MenAfricVac vaccine. The Serum Institute of Indian Limited then produced and tested MenAfriVac on people between the ages of 1-29 in the meningitis belt, which includes countries like Mali, Gambia, Senegal and Ghana.
MenAfriVac was determined to protect people from ages 1-29 from meningitis caused by meningococcal A. It also was found to be the first vaccine that could be kept for up to 4 days at 40 degrees, and is currently priced at $0.50 a dose.
“This is the first time that a vaccine intended for use in Africa has been tested and submitted to regulatory review and approved for this type of use. And we expect this announcement to build momentum for applying the concept to other vaccines and initiatives, allowing us to save more lives in low-income countries,” said Michel Zaffran, director of Project Optimize, the PATH-WHO collaboration.
PATH and WHO believe vaccines against yellow fever, hepatitis B, HPV, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease could all be kept at higher temperatures than the typical 2-8 degrees prescribed by the manufacturers.
“We’re now working with one manufacturer to re-label hepatitis B,” said Simona Zipursky from the WHO. “It’s something people have become more and more aware of as possible, but as an immunization community we have been a little bit afraid.”
Evenly Adda, the Acting Municipal Health Director of the Kessena Nankana East, said the outbreak of meningitis has reduced significantly since MenAfriVac was introduced. Last year only one out of the six people diagnosed with meningitis died.
But, MenAfriVac remained unable to protect children under 1 year old.
This has been fixed with the Navrongo Health Research Centre’s (NHRC) discovery of a new conjugate vaccine which protects children under 1 year old from meningitis.
The new conjugate vaccine was created through the efforts of NHRC’s research team, health centre staff, district health management team, regional health directorate and with the help of collaborators that include WHO, UNICEF, MVP, and the University of Sienna.
The Principal Investigator of the Research, Dr. Abraham Hodgson, said the new conjugate vaccine will be available at EPI in 2015. He also said that the Centre is working on the development of a vaccine that can fight various types of meningitis.
– Kasey Beduhn