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GAVI Alliance commits to fund $100 mn for meningitis control in Africa

Our Bureau, Bangalore
Saturday, May 14, 2011, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

GAVI Alliance, a Geneva-based Public-Private Partnership (PPP) has committed US$100 million to help tackle meningitis A in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria. This is  part of a strategy to save lives in Africa with a new life-saving vaccine, MenAfriVac.

Africa’s ‘meningitis belt’ covers 25 countries stretching from Senegal in the West to Ethiopia in the East. A 1996-97, the epidemic hit 250,000 people, of whom 25,000 died and 50,000 were left with varying forms of disability.

MenAfriVac’s development took less than 10 years following a request from African health ministers. It involved a US$ 70 million Gates Foundation grant, technology transfer from the US government to the Serum Institute of India, and a joint project involving the international non profit PATH and WHO, called the Meningitis Vaccine Project.

Now, MenAfriVac developed at a cost of around US cents 50 per dose, will now help to control the dreaded diseases. “We accelerated our approvals process so that we can ensure that this vaccine is available in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria, before next year’s epidemic season in December,” said Helen Evans, interim CEO, GAVI Alliance.

MenAfriVac is viewed as a breakthrough vaccine for  meningitis A. If GAVI is fully funded for the 2011-2015 programme, the vaccine could save many lives and avoid the other consequences of the epidemic,” she said.

The US$ 100 million released includes US$ 72.6 million for the vaccines plus US$ 27.6 million for operational costs. The countries themselves will also contribute to the operational costs.

While Chad and Nigeria are both hyper-endemic regions reporting high and continued incidence, and therefore a preventive immunization could help stop the spread of meningitis A, according to Gavi Alliance.

The new vaccine was launched in Burkina Faso in December, and GAVI supported three other hyper-endemic countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger to introduce the vaccine in late 2010 ahead of this year’s epidemic season. These countries have seen significantly fewer meningitis A cases during this year’s epidemic than during the 2009/2010 season, according to the data of WHO.

At week 14 of the epidemic season, Burkina Faso had seen just two laboratory-confirmed cases of meningitis A versus 42 for the same period last year. Both cases this season were for unvaccinated individuals.

GAVI’s contribution is in addition to other GAVI contributions of US$ 29.5 million for MenAfriVac’s introduction in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger and of US$ 55.2 million for a vaccine stockpile.

GAVI funding for meningitis A is part of a US$ 571 million regional strategy to defeat meningitis A in Africa’s meningitis belt. If fully funded, GAVI’s total contribution will be US$ 370.4 million.

On June 13, 2011, the UK Government will host a pledging conference in London, asking donors to contribute US$ 3.7 billion to help GAVI fund the immunisation of 243 million children by 2015 with a range of vaccines, including the new vaccine against meningitis A.

GAVI’s support makes it possible to fund further roll out of MenAfriVac in the years to come so that by 2015, all 25 countries of the meningitis belt will be protected against group A meningitis,” said Dr Marc LaForce, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project.

 

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