October 21, 2008

The New Times (Kigali)
By Edwin Musoni

The Washington-based, U.S. National Press Club together with the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) will on Friday this week recognize and honour the Ministry of Health for its ground-breaking efforts to introduce a pneumococcal vaccine in Africa.

Pneumococcal is a bacteria that causes meningitis.

Rwanda was the first African country to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine in Africa and has since been leading the way on the continent. [See note.]

Before the introduction of the vaccine, Rwanda had one of the highest rates of pneumococcal infections in the world and to date the country has one of the strongest immunization programs in Africa.

According to a press statement, as countries around the world consider the inclusion of pneumococcal vaccines in their immunization programs, this event will demonstrate the global need and broad international support for increased efforts to prevent pneumococcal disease.

When contacted on the day’s arrangements, newly appointed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, said that she was not in a position to comment on anything before she is officially sworn in.

Meanwhile scientific study indicates that pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness in children and adults throughout the world and is caused by a common bacterium called pneumococcus which can attack different parts of the body. Science indicates that when pneumococcus bacteria invade the lungs, they cause the most common form of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia; when bacteria invade the bloodstream, they cause bacteremia; and when they invade the covering of the brain, they cause meningitis.

Pneumococci may also cause middle ear infection called otitis media and sinusitis.

Currently there are more than 90 known pneumococcal types; the ten most common types account for approximately 62 percent of invasive disease worldwide.

Note: The Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) has contacted AllAfrica to clarify that Rwanda has not yet introduced the pneumococcal vaccine but that thanks to the collaborative efforts of the government of Rwanda and GAVI Alliance, the Rwanda Ministry of Health expects to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine into its national immunization program in January 2009. This will make Rwanda one of the first two countries in Africa to vaccinate its children routinely against pneumococcal disease. – The Editors, AllAfrica.