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In an emotional ceremony attended by representatives of countries routinely ravaged by epidemic meningitis, national health authorities in Niger recently presented Dr. Marc LaForce with the "Illustre Combattant de la Méningite." The award recognizes LaForce’s work in fighting a disease that kills one in ten who are sickened and leaves a quarter of survivors severely debilitated.

LaForce directs the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization that is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The partnership fostered development of MenAfriVac™, a vaccine against the epidemic meningitis that sweeps through sub-Saharan countries known as the meningitis belt during the dry season. Beginning in December, more than 20 million people in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso will receive MenAfriVac™ in the first nationwide vaccination campaigns using a meningitis vaccine developed specifically for Africa.

LaForce was recognized at the annual meeting on enhanced meningitis surveillance, held in Niger’s capital, Niamey. The meeting provides a forum for leaders to discuss the challenges of protecting people at risk for meningitis and to formulate a plan of action for the coming meningitis season.

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Posted November 15, 2010.