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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs