UPDATE 1-WHO to launch cheap meningitis vaccine in Africa

Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:20pm GMT

* Generic-made vaccine protects against meningitis A

* WHO hopes to immunise 450 million Africans by 2015

(Adds MSF saying vaccine is a "game changer", para 15)

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON, Nov 22 (Reuters) - More than 12 million people in Burkino Faso will be the first to receive a new meningitis vaccine as part of an Africa-wide immunisation plan, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

The vaccine, called MenAfriVac and made by Serum Institute of India, will be used to inoculate 450 million people throughout the continent by 2015.

It was developed for use against a type of the disease common in Africa and, at just 50 U.S. cents per dose, it is designed to be cheap enough that poorer countries can afford it.

It protects against bacterial meningitis A, a strain of the disease that causes annual epidemics in 25 countries in Africa in which thousands die and many more are permanently disabled.

"The impact of this vaccine will be truly enormous," said Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, the WHO's director of vaccines, who announced the launch of the MenAfriVac programme at a briefing in London. "This will affect the lives of 450 million people who are at risk of this disease in the African meningitis belt."   Continued...

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