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Progress Against Malaria and Other Infectious Diseases Among Highlights at Annual Vaccine Conference
Date:4/27/2009

l Sero-Type Epidemiology, at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. The lecture, which is underwritten by a grant from Merck & Co., Inc., honors the late Robert Austrian, MD, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who developed the first multivalent vaccine against pneumococcus bacteria. Also on Tuesday, the conference will announce the recipient of this year's Maurice R. Hilleman Early Stage Career Investigator Award, which recognizes promising scientists who are just beginning their careers in vaccinology.

A Meningitis Vaccine for Africa

Public health officials in Burkina Faso will soon begin immunizing people aged 1 through 29 with a new vaccine that is expected to end epidemics of Group A meningitis in 25 countries across the mid-section of the African continent, stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia. The area, known as the meningitis belt, is prone to meningitis epidemics because of its six-month dry season when winds whip up dust, causing people to cough and sneeze.

F. Marc LaForce, MD, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between WHO and PATH, will discuss the roll-out of the vaccine known as MenAfriVac beginning in November or December in Burkina Faso and then to other at-risk countries. Together, the countries are home to more than 400 million people at risk of meningitis, which kills one in 10 and leaves many others with hearing loss, mental retardation and epilepsy.

Until now, public health officials have been offering a polysaccharide vaccine whenever epidemics hit, but it provides only limited protection. The new conjugate vaccine produces a better immune response, can be used with children under the age of 2, and protects unimmunized people who live near those who have been immunized. "The new conjugate vaccine is a major development in the prevention and control of meningitis in the hardest hit countries," says Dr. LaForce. "It will reduce the risk of epi
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SOURCE National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
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