Meningitis and the half-tiger vaccine

Meningitis is a very nasty disease. A teenager by the name of Nicole Wilson came down with meningitis while on vacation in Cyprus. Nicole was given a 10-20% chance of survival by the doctors, and this is in a part of the world with exceptional medical care. She survived, but at a terrible cost. She lost both her legs below the knee, most of her fingers and the sight in one eye, and was rendered infertile. There is a vaccination against Meningitis, but immunity can wane. In sub-Saharan Africa, Meningitis is a real killer, taking thousands of lives annually. In 1997, the worst year on record, 25000 people died.

The largest coin in South African currency is the Five Rand (R5) coin, nicknamed the half-tiger. Why tiger and not lion, I don’t know. There’s not a lot that it can buy: a banana, apple, or orange; enough airtime to make a brief call or two on a prepaid cellphone; some yoghurt. And now, a vaccine against meningitis.

Child getting Meningitis vaccination

According to this story on BBC, a new vaccine against Meningitis A has been created for sub-Saharan Africa. The cost? 30 pence, or at the current exchange rate, less than R5 a unit. It will be launched in Burkina Faso in December, and rolled out to other countries from then.

The vaccine was formulated to be affordable. At its price, 1 million pounds would buy over 3 million doses.


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