IU Medical School, Merck take shot at vaccinating Kenyan kids

November 18, 2003

Half of the children born in sub-Saharan Africa each year do not receive routine vaccinations to protect them from debilitating or deadly diseases. An ambitious venture of the Indiana University School of Medicine and pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. seeks to reverse that trend in Kenya, where the School has had a strong presence for more than a decade.

The Merck Vaccine Network-Africa has made a $200,000 grant to the School to establish a vaccination services training program for health-care workers, creating a training center at Moi University Faculty of Health Sciences in Eldoret, Kenya. The center will develop a sustainable workforce of medical professionals skilled in vaccine management, storage and delivery.

About 10 percent of Kenyan children die before reaching the age of 5, according to the World Health Organization. Many succumb to diseases preventable through vaccinations.

"There is no single answer to the challenge of increasing access to vaccines in African countries and other developing nations," notes Adel Mahmoud, M.D., president of the Merck Vaccine Division. "It will take multiple organizations applying different approaches and solutions. The MVN-A program is a model aimed at supporting vaccination infrastructure in regions where they remain.

Since 1990, the IU School of Medicine and Moi have worked closely to train faculty, residents and medical students to teach, conduct research and to participate in patient care in Kenya.

"Working within the framework established at Moi and the strong relationships we have forged with our colleagues and others there, we expect to provide the necessary training to make this program succeed," says Edward A. Liechty, M.D., professor of pediatrics and principal investigator at IU School of Medicine.

Fabian Esamai, M.D., professor of pediatrics, is principal investigator at Moi University and is working with Dr. Liechty to implement the program.

"By training immunization program managers through the MVN-A program, we hope to enhance our ability to vaccinate and increase coverage against the eight diseases covered by the extended program on immunizations in Kenya," says Dr. Esamai. "This in the long term translates into reduced infant morbidity and mortality due to these diseases."

Among those diseases are tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae type B, which can cause a wide variety of infections in children.

A similar vaccination program also is being established by Merck in the African nation of Mali through the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Centre pour le Development des Vaccine.
-end-
To learn more about the IU School of Medicine-Kenya program, go to: http://medicine.iupui.edu/kenya/introduction.html.
Information about Moi University Faculty of Health Sciences is at http://www.mu.ac.ke/fhealth/index.html.
More information about the Merck Vaccine Network-Africa can be found at http://www.merck.com/about/cr/mvna/home.html.

Indiana University

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