Aid Groups Say Tens of Thousands of Africans Could Die From New Meningitis Strain
The W-135 strain of meningitis threatens to cut a deadly swathe through Africa unless the vaccine is made affordable and accessible to the populations there, say the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Red Cross. The organizations have launched an urgent appeal for 10 million euros to pay for supplies of the vaccine, which costs between $4 in the Middle East and $50 in the United States. The vaccine against W-135 is produced as a component of a vaccine against four strains of meningitis: A, C, W-135 and Y; the meningitis vaccine normally used in Africa costs just $0.25, but it only protects against the A and C strains. The WHO's communicable disease chief, David Heymann, said he hoped to reach an agreement with drug makers Glaxo SmithKline and Aventis Pasteur for a cheaper version of the multiple-strain vaccine.