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Health News of Monday, 4 February 2013

Source: GNA

Meningitis Vaccine Could Save Babies' Lives

The Navrongo Health Research Centre (NHRC) has conducted another research on a meningitis vaccine that would be administered to children under one year old.

The current vaccine known as ”MenAfriVac” is administered to people aged between 1-29 years in countries in the meningitis belt where the disease occurs.

Ghana conducted mass vaccinations in October 2012, in the three Northern Regions which are the epidemic zones of the disease.

The research which was conducted by the Centre in the Kessena Nankana District of the Upper East Region is to see how children under one year could also benefit from the vaccine.

Sharing the research findings with stakeholders at the Weekend, the Principal Investigator of the Research, Dr Abraham Hodgson, said the study which took the research team four years had shown that the new conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac) is safe and can be given to children under one year old and that it provides long term protection from Group-A meningococcal meningitis in them.

The vaccine, he noted, does not also interfere with other vaccines given at the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at the clinics and are very affordable in developing countries.

Dr Hodgson said in 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) and PATH came together and started the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) with objective of eliminating the deadly meningitis epidemic from the world particularly from African countries with funding from the Gates Foundation.

He said as part of the project, MVP developed the vaccine MenAfriVac, which was produced by the Serum Institute of Indian Limited (SIIL) and tried on people aged between 1-29 in countries in the meningitis belts such as Mali, Gambia, Senegal and Ghana was safe and protected people against the meningitis caused by “meningococci -A “ in those age groups.

“No study have however been done to children under one year old and there was thus the need for such a study so that children in that age group could also be protected hence the study”, Dr Hodgson stated.

He said the new conjugate vaccine which would be added to the EIP in 2015 would be administered to all children under one year old and commended the Research Team, the Staff of the health centre, the District Health Management Team, the Regional Health Directorate including collaborators such as WHO, UNICEF, MVP, University of Sienna among others for their effort.

He said the Centre is advancing on strategies that would enable it conduct a research that would make it possible to develop one vaccine that would combat the various types of meningitis at a goal.

Dr Marie-Pierre Preziosi, Medical Officer Initiative for Vaccine Research Immunization, Vaccines and Biological of WHO, lauded the centre for the good work adding that the research would not benefit Ghana alone but would be beneficial to other countries in the meningitis belts.

Mrs Evenly Adda , the Acting Municipal Health Director of the Kessena Nankana East, said with the introduction of the disease vaccine, the outbreak of the epidemic had reduced drastically in area saying last year, out of the six people who were diagnosed with it, only one person died.

She appealed to the donor agencies and collaborators to help the Community-based Health Planning System (CHPS) compounds with beds and fridges to facilitate health deliveries effectively.

The NHRC, created in 1998 is indigenous and leading research centre across Africa and most of the research work conducted by it including administration of Vitamin A to infants, the use of impregnated bed nets in the control of malaria, the Community-based Health Planning System (CHPS) had been adopted into the country's health policy.

The NHRC recently conducted a maternal health study with funding from the World Bank with the overall goal of improving maternal health outcomes in northern Ghana as part of global efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goal five.

The NHRC has also collaborated with several reputable institutions and has been supported by many donors including USAID, WHO, Rockefeller Foundation and the NIH among other agencies.

The centre serves as a site for students from the University of Ghana Public Health School, South Africa and Georgia universities to undertake their field practice under the supervision and guidance of the researchers at the Centre.

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