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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