SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Meningitis vaccine could reach remote African areas

MenAfriVac is the first meningitis vaccine to break the cold chain barrier in Africa and could allow for protection in remote parts of Africa, according to a study published on Wednesday in Vaccine.

In November 2012, researchers with Optimize, a now-completed collaboration between the World Health Organization and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, cooperated with the government of Benin to conduct a 10-day meningitis A vaccination campaign. The study found that MenAfriVac provided complete coverage even in ambient temperatures of up to 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

The researchers tested the meningitis vaccine using a controlled temperature chain, which kept the vaccines out of the typically recommended cold chain of 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. After vaccinating 155,000 people across 150 villages, there were no cases of meningitis A reported across Benin in 2013, including the area where the vaccine was not kept cold.

"This flexibility makes it easier for vaccinators to reach 'the last mile,' from the health center to the child, ensuring that we reach and protect all people at risk, even those in remote areas and not just those that can be accessed by a cold chain," Simona Zipursky, the author of the study, said.

A separate study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization found the new approach could drop the costs of administering MenAfriVac by 50 percent.

"Findings from these new studies show that it is possible to deliver vaccines more conveniently and at a lower cost when refrigeration is not needed every step of the way," David Kaslow, the vice president of product development at PATH, said. "MenAfriVac is helping to show a less expensive, simpler, and more convenient way for other current and future lifesaving vaccines to get to the hardest to reach people in need."

MenAfriVac was developed through the PATH-WHO Meningitis Vaccine Project as part of a model meant to provide an effective, affordable, long-term solution to epidemic meningitis in the African meningitis belt.