News / Health

Revolutionary Vaccine Breaks Refrigeration Barrier in Africa

FILE - A Somali baby cries while receiving a five-in-one vaccine against several potentially fatal childhood diseases, at the Medina Maternal Child Health center in Mogadishu, Somalia
FILE - A Somali baby cries while receiving a five-in-one vaccine against several potentially fatal childhood diseases, at the Medina Maternal Child Health center in Mogadishu, Somalia
Jennifer Lazuta
For decades, distribution of vaccines in Africa and other warm regions has been hampered by the need to keep the vaccines refrigerated - a major challenge in remote areas without electric power.  But the World Health Organization says a new vaccine aimed at preventing meningitis A can withstand temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius, and was found to be 100 percent effective during a trial study in Benin. 

Researchers said that health workers in Benin have successfully immunized more than 155,000 people against meningitis A using the first vaccination to be approved for use without constant refrigeration, also known as the "cold chain."

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the vaccine, which is known as MenAfriVac, can be stored for up to four days in temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius.

PATH is a U.S.-based non-profit organization that partnered with the WHO on the Meningitis Vaccine Project.  Dr. Marie-Pierre Preziosi, the project's director, said the new breakthrough could revolutionize the way vaccination campaigns are conducted in developing countries.  She spoke to VOA from Ouagadougou.

“As you know, vaccines are usually kept in cold chains, between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.  And so you have to have the whole capacity around the cold chain: that is freezers, ice packs, transportation fuel, electricity fuel, all of this.  Sometimes, it is not only costly, but it is also very challenging to reach remote areas with such constraints,” said Preziosi.

Health experts said that because of the cold chain requirement, there is normally a lot of wasted vaccine vials during immunization campaigns, particularly during the “last mile” -- the time from when the vaccine leaves the refrigerator at the district health center until it is injected into a person’s arm at the village level.

Many communities in Africa have no access to electricity and are often too remote to be reached before the ice packs in insulated coolers melt.

Preziosi said the flexibility of being able to transport the vaccine outside of the cold chain meant that only nine vaccine vials out of 15,000 had to be discarded during the trial study in Benin.

Being able to work outside the cold chain also meant that health workers didn’t have to travel to and from the district health center each day to replenish vaccine supplies.  This allowed them to vaccinate more people in a shorter amount of time.

PATH’s vice president for product development, Dr. David Kaslow, said that removing the refrigeration requirement for MenAfriVac could also reduce costs.

“The one study that was done with the WHO looked at the modeled scenario, which is: what are all the costs that are incurred in that last mile?  And really, one of the major costs, obviously, are the cold chain costs themselves… And so the analysis was done as to what is the cost savings.  And it’s about 50 percent," he noted. "On average, from 24 cents per dose delivered to 12 cents per dose delivered.”

Meningitis, which is the inflammation of the protective tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord, can lead to severe brain damage if left untreated and results in death in about 50 percent of cases.

The WHO said that while meningitis can be prevented with vaccines, more than one million suspected cases have been reported by countries in Africa’s "meningitis belt" over the past 20 years.

The Meningitis Vaccine Project said that following the MenAfriVac vaccination campaign in Benin, there were no reported cases of Meningitis A in any of the 150 vaccinated communities.

Kaslow said that it is now up to individual countries to take advantage of this success and allow health workers to use MenAfriVac within the new temperature conditions.

He said the next step will be for pharmaceutical developers to see if the refrigeration requirements for other vaccines, such as cholera, can also be changed.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid