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100m Africans now vaccinated against meningitis A

Economic growth
By Paul Hodges on 24-Nov-2012

Meningitis map.pngThe blog is in S Africa next week as the guest of AECI, where on Tuesday it is also scheduled to be interviewed on CNBC’s ‘Beyond Markets’ about New Normal developments.

It is particularly pleased that the visit coincides with the achievement of a major milestone by one of our key Case Studies in ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’. PATH’s creation of a virtual vaccine company, discussed in chapter 7, proves that amazing things can happen when companies refocus on long-term societal value rather than short-term shareholder gain:

• 10 years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $50m to kick-start the development of a meningitis vaccine to protect 450m people in sub-Saharan Africa
• Meningitis A has been endemic there for 100 years, killing 25000 people as recently as 1996-7. It kills 10% of those affected within 2 days; 25% suffer permanent damage including hearing loss, mental retardation and learning disability
• The Gates money helped to fund PATH/WHO’s work with the Serum Institute of India, Synco BioPartners in The Netherlands, and the US FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

The aim was to develop an affordable vaccine, selling at $0.50c per dose to eradicate this entirely avoidable disease.

Bill Gates is a truly visionary philanthropist, as the blog has discussed with regard to renewable energy. He refuses to support the cynical recycling of old technologies under the banner of being ‘cheap and cheerful’. Instead, he invested in PATH’s proposal to undertake ground-breaking technical research supported by the development of an entirely new business model.

Now PATH have just announced they successfully vaccinated their 100 millionth person this month. In addition, their pace of vaccination can now increase as they have gained approval to transport the vaccine outside a refrigerator for up to 4 days. This is especially important in countries such as Benin where cold storage is often non-existent.

The new vaccine does not only save lives. Preventing meningitis is a major catalyst for economic growth, as the disease destroys families and their savings. A single case of treatment costs $90, equivalent to 3-4 months of the family’s disposable income. The cost of staying alive is thus often to plunge them all back into poverty.

Now this risk of disaster is being removed, providing greater economic and physical security for the 450 million people affected. The blog is delighted to send its congratulations to all those involved in this wonderful achievement.