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WHO Approves The World’s First Ebola Vaccine, Ervebo

The world has finally got its first Ebola vaccine, Ervebo, developed by Merck, a multinational pharmaceutical company.

The vaccine has been approved for marketing by the European Commission. The World Health Organization (WHO) also prequalified Ervebo, showing that the vaccine meets all the necessary quality and safety parameters set by the WHO.

The Ebola Virus has caused epidemic outbreaks in parts of Africa for years. The virus is transmitted through the body fluid or blood of an infected person. It causes a febrile illness in the patient with symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, cough, diarrhea and vomiting. If left untreated, it can lead to severe bleeding and death. The fatality rate of Ebola is a striking 50%. Thus, the development of a vaccine for this fatal disease is a crucial step for Africa.

The Democratic Republic of Congo provides the vaccine in a “compassionate use” capacity to end the spread of the virus in the region. The multinational company, Johnson & Johnson, is also in the experimental phase of another vaccine


Kenya Rolls Out Cervical Cancer Vaccination

Kenya has become the 16th African nation to roll out free cervical cancer vaccines to girls.

The president of Kenya, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, launched the campaign and announced a budget of $8 million for this program. More than 800,000 girls will benefit from the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program. The campaign aims to provide cervical cancer screening, advanced breast cancer screening, mammography, and cervical cancer vaccines to girls with an age of 10 or above.

The government is working on the immunization plan with the ministry of education. The WHO, United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF), and Vaccine Alliance Gavi stand as prominent development partners in the campaign.

According to reports, over 27,000 people in Kenya die of cancer every year. The most prevalent cancer is cervical cancer. This vaccination campaign is a progressive and revolutionary step in the healthcare of Kenyan citizens.


How Decoding African DNA Could Help Fight Disease

Most clinical trials for medications focus on Europeans or Americans. The lack of African genome in these samples may result in drugs that have uncertain safety profile and efficacy in Africans.

A Nigeria based genomics company aims to change this problem. Their target is to make African genes prominently represented in clinical drug trials.

Abasi Ene-Obong, the CEO of a biotech start-up, 54gene, says that people of African ancestry, especially those with darkly pigmented skin, have one of the most diverse genomes. This makes their genetical information a vast resource that is still to be tapped. Ene-Obong has set up a large laboratory in Lagos, where he intends to collect samples of 40,000 Africans by the end of 2019 with a vision of getting up to 100,000 African genome samples within the next 12 months.

Decoding African DNA and using it for clinical studies can help companies design and manufacture drugs with better safety and efficacy for African people.


Drug Prices Drop to Save Millions From Developing Tuberculosis

A French pharmaceutical company has made history by cutting down the price of a tuberculosis (TB) drug dramatically.

Sanofi decreased the price of rifapentine to 66% of its original price, making it more affordable for a vast majority of people. Rifapentine is an option to prevent the progression of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria infection that causes TB, from the latent (or dormant) stage to the active stage, which is when sickness and transmission occur.

According to the WHO, about 25% of people all over the world have been infected with M. tuberculosis. This infection is especially prevalent in Africa and South Asia, and typically lies dormant for years but may progress to active TB. Persons living with HIV who are not on HIV treatment are much more likely to progress to active TB and become seriously ill and die as a result.

The price drop will significantly affect the healthcare dynamics in Africa. South Africa plans to roll out these new prices very soon, with the countries minister stating that this price drop will help thousands of vulnerable people.

This drug is currently accessible to one hundred countries, saving millions from developing active TB.  Sanofi has also stated that this drug can soon become the standard of care for TB in Africa and the Middle East.


Malawi Begins Rollout Of First Malaria Vaccine, joining Ghana and Malawi

The WHO has reported that Malawi has joined Ghana and Kenya to provide immunization against Malaria. The vaccination rollout is a historic moment for Africa. Malaria remains one of the leading killers in the world, particularly in Africa. In regions such as Ghana and Malawi, more than 45,000 people lose their lives to this disease. A majority of these victims are children less than five years of age.

 GlaxoSmithKline developed the malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, and got approval by the European Medicine Industry in 2015. It took GSK and its partners 30 years to develop this vaccine with a cost of around one billion dollars. The manufacture has donated 10 million doses of the vaccine for the pilot project in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana. The last clinical trial showed that the vaccine exhibits 30% effectiveness in children who received four doses. The vaccine is not yet flawless, but it’s a critical step towards getting the perfect malaria vaccine.

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