From: Reuters
Published March 10, 2008 10:05 AM

Vaccine use wipes out Hib meningitis in Uganda

GENEVA (Reuters) - Vaccinations in Uganda have eliminated Hib meningitis, a dangerous inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, as a public health concern in the African country, the GAVI Alliance said on Monday.

GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations, said the use of vaccines from 2002 to 2006 had reduced the incidence of the disease in children in Uganda to zero. The vaccine is made by U.K. pharmaceuticals group GlaxoSmithKline.

Julian Lob-Levyt, executive director of the public-private partnership, which includes the World Health Organisation and the World Bank and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, called the results extremely positive.

"We can applaud a true success in controlling this deadly disease that has too often claimed so many lives," he said.


Though developed countries have largely eliminated the disease, Hib vaccines have not been distributed quickly in poorer parts of the world because of financial and logistical problems, as well as limited awareness of the disease.

In Uganda, the government obtained GAVI support to use 16.5 million doses of 5-in-1 vaccines, giving protection against Hib, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and hepatitis B.

According to a study published in The Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, the vaccination programme in Uganda is now preventing almost 30,000 cases of severe Hib disease and 5,000 child deaths every year in that country.

"The introduction of Hib vaccine has now completely changed the epidemiology of bacterial meningitis in Uganda, with elimination of meningitis due to Hib as a public health problem," said Adeodata Kekitiinwa, a pediatrician at Kampala's Mulago Hospital, who co-authored the study.

The breakthrough in Uganda follows similar results in Bangladesh, Kenya, Chile, and the Gambia, as well as Britain and the United States. In all cases, Hib vaccine was shown to cut the incidence of disease by 88 percent or more in 3 to 5 years.

Hib kills about 400,000 children under the age of five every year, and is linked to about 3 million cases of illnesses with

long-term effects such as deafness, paralysis, mental retardation and learning disabilities.

GAVI said that for every child with Hib meningitis in a developing country, there are thought to be 5 to 10 others with Hib-related pneumonia, which is also preventable by vaccination.

(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; editing by Jonathan Lynn and Tim Pearce)

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