Posted by: Martin Fox | June 21, 2008

Vaccine Program Vanquishes Type of Childhood Meningitis

More great news on the healthcare front. Anything that should save 5,000 children a year is great in our book. The progress rolls on.

Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership and The Higher Road Initiative

By Donald G. McNeil Jr.

A dangerous type of childhood meningitis has been virtually eliminated in Uganda in just five years after a vaccine was introduced, according to a study released this week. That should save the lives of 5,000 children a year, the authors estimated.

“This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of impact, a 100 percent drop,” said Dr. Julian Lob-Levyt, executive secretary of the GAVI Alliance, which paid for the vaccines. “We hope this can be repeated in other countries.”

The study, released by the World Health Organization, monitored cases from 2001 to 2006.

The vaccine, known as Hib, protects against haemophilus influenzae type B, a bacterium that can inflame the lining of the brain or cause pneumonia. Each year, it kills 386,000 children globally. Three million more have severe side effects like deafness, paralysis or retardation.

The vaccine has existed since 1991 but was rare in the third world until the creation of the alliance — originally the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization — in 2000. Even at prices offered to poor countries, it had cost $7 , seven times as much as other vaccines.

The alliance joins United Nations health agencies, the World Bank, vaccine companies, universities and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and receives money from $1 billion in bonds issued by the International Finance Facility for Immunization.

By guaranteeing large orders, the alliance tries to drive down the price of vaccines. It estimates that it has helped prevent 2.3 million early deaths since 2000.

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