New research on HIB vaccine revealed

New research by the Britain’s Medical Research Council has shown that routinely immunising infants against the haemophilus influenzae type b (HIB) bacteria has virtually eliminated HIB in Gambia. HIB is the bacteria that causes pneumonia and meningitis.

The study, which will be published in the Lancet online medical journal, proved that routinely immunising children with the HIB vaccine in developing countries would help save lives.

Researchers found that the reduction was achieved despite interruptions in vaccine supply and late vaccinations.

“This makes the Gambian findings particularly relevant to the real life situation in other developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa,” said study author Richard Adegbola.

The World Health Organisation estimates that HIB causes 400 000 to 700 000 deaths each year—the majority of these deaths occurring in children under five in the developing world.

The researchers found that the HIB bacteria in Gambia was now seldom found, and unvaccinated children were protected because of the reduced likelihood of transmission.

Routine HIB vaccination was introduced in the Gambia in 1997.

The bacteria is spread in droplet form if a child sneezes or shares toys.

South Africa’s Department of Health has been administering the vaccine free since 1999.

Professor Barry Schoub of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that prevalence had “dropped remarkably” in South Africa although the virus was still an important cause of pneumonia and meningitis in children.

“It is easily prevented by routine vaccination,” he told Sapa.

The study supported the hope that countries not administering the vaccine would do so. - Sapa


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