Dr. Besser Reports: How a Country is Saving their Next Generation
May 31, 2011

Here is an amazing statistic.

19.5 million people have been vaccinated against meningitis in Africa since December 2010

This is an inspiring story of how cooperation, innovation and determination are not only saving lives, but saving an entire generation of children.

As seen in Dr. Richard Besser’s report on ABC’s Good Morning America this weekend, a groundbreaking partnership of organizations (including PATH and WHO with major funding by The Gates Foundation and various other organizations)  have come together to make an extraordinary impact by offering MenAfriVac™, an affordable and effective vaccine specifically designed to address an epidemic of meningitis in sub-Saharan Africa.

Each year, during the dry season in Africa, parents live in fear.  About 450 million people living in the “meningitis belt” are at risk of contracting meningococcus type A, a specific meningitis strain commonly found in the region.  Those infected would often suffer with high fevers, vomiting, lethargy, stiff necks, as well as brain and spinal cord damage which can cause deafness, mental retardation, seizures, or paralysis.  With each epidemic, it’s estimated that the disease would kill one in ten of those infected, and leave one-quarter of survivors severely debilitated.  In 1996 and 1997, during one of the worst meningitis epidemics in recent years, the disease struck more than 250,000 people and caused 25,000 deaths. Since then, more than 224,000 cases of meningitis have been reported.
However, the Meningitis Vaccine Project  offers hope.  As Dr. Besser reported this weekend, a new vaccine, produced through an innovative product development plan, at a cost of only 40 cents per dose, has given hope to hundreds of millions of people. As Dr. Mark LaForce, was overseeing the vaccination of 11 million people in just 12 days, he explained to Dr. Besser that  “Some people say ‘in the middle of nowhere’.  But it’s in the middle of somewhere today.”
In concluding his segment below, Dr. Besser makes an encouraging announcement.  In comparison to year’s past, where the region averaged thousands of cases of meningitis each year, this year there have only been four reported cases of meningitis in patients who had not been vaccinated.
It’s appears that the Meningitis Vaccine Project is already an enormous success.  And yet, we look forward to hearing about the great strides they will certainly make as they continue to expand their project through other parts of Africa.  Pending adequate funding, the project hopes to vaccinate 300 million people by 2015, thereby significantly reducing the fear of a deadly and dangerous disease that has plagued generation after generation of people in this region.

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9 responses to “Dr. Besser Reports: How a Country is Saving their Next Generation”

  1. Amy Pisani says:

    This story is so inspirational it gave me chills. I love the fact that the vaccine developers worked together to keep the price of the vaccine so low knowing that it was a vaccine for developing nations.

  2. Nathan says:

    I agree, Amy. Everyone I have shared this video with has been amazed. I know many people who have done medical mission work in Africa and they know all to weel that this kind of aid is a game-changer in these regions.

  3. Steve Michaels says:

    I know I am always inspired by the giving way that pharamcuetical companies work soooo hard to keep costs down for those who cannot afford their treatments. This African program is a perfect example. Wow! 0.4 cents per vaccine? That is really cheap. How do those same pharmacuetical companies treat US patients? I wonder…. Same vaccine, but the cost? Try $75-$115. Aren’t they giving? That is a profit mark up of anywhere from 18,000 to 28,000%. No wonder they can afford to give it to everyone else so cheap. In fact, not only are they making enough off of Americans to vaccinate the world, they are doing it by taking even more money from the Gate’s Foundation, the Dell Foundation and the CDC. It is really good to see how giving they REALLY are.

    • Nathan says:

      There is a whole discussion to be had about how you are misrepresenting this, Steve, but right now I just want to point out the most glaring flaw in your paragraph.
      The vaccine you link to is not the same, or even all that similar, vaccine as MenAfriVac. Menactra (the most common meningococcal vaccine in the US) protects against meningococcal groups A, C, Y, and W-135 and is conjugated to diphtheria toxoid. MenAfriVac protects against only menigococcal group A and is conjugated to tetanus toxoid.
      Incidentally, the cost is 40 cents per vaccine, not 0.40 cents. This is a typo in the blogpost, unlike your paragraph, which is just poorly researched.

      • Steve Michaels says:

        My sin was actually trusting the research of the blog entry then. Maybe a lesson to others who take what Christine says at face value!

      • Nathan says:

        The blogpost is quite clear that this is for “meningococcus type A, a specific meningitis strain commonly found in the region.” There is nothing in there that indicates it is the vaccine you linked to. You made that up. What was that you were saying about how you always admit when you are wrong?

      • Snoozie says:

        Steve–It would say quite a bit about your character if you were to admit that you made a mistake comparing the two vaccines.

    • Christine Vara says:

      Steve, It’s important that you, and other readers, realize that the innovative way in which this product came together is what has enabled this vaccine to be manufactured at such a relatively low cost. This link is referenced in the article (http://www.path.org/menafrivac/product-development.php), but other sites elaborate on the process as well. Certainly it was not an easy task to pull these various elements together, but it is inspiring to see that it was done. To be completely honest, I’m not so sure, given the regulations here in the US, that a vaccine used in the states could be manufactured in the same way. But then again you live in the UK so that may not be a concern of yours.
      And yes, there was a typo in the blog post, which is now corrected, that indicates the cost of the vaccine is approximately 40 cents per dose. What a small price to pay to help save a life!

  4. I do agree with all the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They’re very convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very short for starters. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

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