Meningitis vaccine ruled safe for warm storage

The World Health Organization deemed an inexpensive meningitis vaccine safe out of cold storage for four days, meaning health workers can more easily transport the drug to remote parts of Africa where meningitis A is common.

MenAfriVac is safe for use for up to four days at up to 40 degrees Celsius, Reuters reports, meaning the vaccine can avoid the often costly and inconvenient "cold chain" for the last leg of the delivery. The Drugs Controller General of India, supported by analysis from Health Canada and confirmed by the WHO Vaccines Pre-qualification Program, reviewed the possibility of avoiding the cold chain prior to the WHO's final ruling.

In 2011, Meningitis Vaccine Project and WHO experts said introducing MenAfriVac into 7 highly endemic countries could save up to $300 million over a decade and prevent a million cases of disease, Reuters reports. The vaccine, made by Serum Institute of India, costs a mere 50 cents per dose.

The Meningitis Vaccine Project, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, developed the vaccine to protect against meningitis A. Bacterial meningitis, an infection of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord, can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50% of cases if it goes untreated. Epidemics of the illness occur every 7 to 14 years in what's dubbed Africa's "meningitis belt," 26 countries reaching from Senegal to Ethiopia.

- here's more from Reuters