New meningitis vaccine developed

A new vaccine has been developed with a major contribution from the Health Protection Agency in England that may save millions of people from the group A meningitis epidemic that regularly sweeps across sub-Saharan Africa.

After an eight year development period, the vaccine will be launched in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in West Africa on Monday, December 6, to kick off a campaign that seeks to immunize 20 million people aged one to 29 in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, Medical News Today reports.

The overall goal is to vaccinate 300 million people in 25 African countries by the year 2015.

“The new vaccine will provide long-term protection for adults and children and it will have the additional benefits of creating herd immunity for non-vaccinated people who live in close proximity with those who have been vaccinated,” Professor Ray Borrow, head of serological work in the HPA’s Vaccination Evaluation Unit, said, according to Medical News Today. “It is hoped that ultimately 450 million people will be protected.”

The program, driven by The Meningitis Vaccine Project, includes a partnership with the World Health Organization, PATH, the HPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as a sponsorship by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We are proud of our involvement in such a worthwhile humanitarian effort,” Dr. David Heymann, HPA chairman and a member of an MVP advisory group, said, according to Medical News Today. “Meningitis is a devastating disease and this project will save countless thousands of lives and will hopefully put an end to the regular cycles of misery and suffering that it causes in sub-Saharan Africa.”