New rule on vaccine to help fight meningitis in remotest Africa

Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:00pm EST
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* Meningitis vaccine safe out of cold store for 4 days -WHO

* New regulations mean vaccine can get to more remote places

* MenAfriVac shot already having big impact in Africa

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - A cheap meningitis vaccine designed to treat a type of the disease common in Africa was ruled safe to use after several days without refrigeration on Wednesday, allowing health workers to get it to people in more remote parts.

Epidemics of meningitis A occur every seven to 14 years in Africa's "meningitis belt", a band of 26 countries stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, and are particularly devastating to children and young adults.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) ruling, that vaccine MenAfriVac is safe to use for up to four days at up to 40 degrees Celsius, will save money spent on expensive "cold chain" systems in the final miles of delivery, said Orin Levine, director of vaccine delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the vaccine's development.

Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) and WHO experts said in 2011 that introducing MenAfriVac in seven highly endemic African countries could save up to $300 million over a decade and prevent a million cases of disease.

The ruling comes after a review by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) supported by analysis from Health Canada and confirmed by the WHO Vaccines Pre-qualification Programme.   Continued...