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In December 2010, the people of Burkina Faso made history. Throughout the small West African country, they gathered to get a new vaccine that protects against a disease which, in the last century, has killed hundreds of thousands in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries: meningococcal meningitis A.

The new vaccine is the result of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization. The vaccine targets the strain of bacterial meningitis that causes deadly epidemics throughout the 25-country African “meningitis belt.” Its widespread use has the potential to end those epidemics forever.

The people of Burkina Faso understood that potential—it showed in their faces as they took part in the ten-day mass vaccination campaign that introduced the new vaccine.

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Edwinge Nana, 19, after vaccination in the village of Koubri. Edwinge’s little brother Charles died of meningitis at age 7.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Doma Guere, 36, a nurse in Koubri. “We hope that meningitis is now history,” he says.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Shariphat Tapsoba, 5, with her vaccination record. Shariphat was vaccinated at her school in the capital city of Ouagadougou.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Ida Tapsoba, 29, and her daughter, Ariane Zangre, 13 months, wait for vaccine in Koubri. Ida’s son became ill with meningitis—a “desperate” time for the family. Happily, the boy recovered.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Dr. Marc LaForce, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, outside a chief’s compound in the village of Saaba. After a distinguished career in academic medicine, Marc spent nearly ten years forging partnerships to develop the new vaccine.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Madame Thérèse Kafando, director of the Integrated Education and Training Center of Deaf and Hearers in Ouagadougou. Thérèse’s late husband established the school to serve children deafened by meningitis and other maladies.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Francois Rimtoumda, 66, a chief in Saaba. The chief lost his three-year-old son to meningitis. He encouraged all young people in his village to be vaccinated.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Nadine Some, a nurse at the health center in Saaba, with a cooler full of vaccine. In Saaba, more than three-quarters of the people who needed the vaccine lined up to get it in the first three days it was available to them.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Rachid Ouedraogo, 7, at the school for deaf and hearing children in Ouagadougou. About 80 percent of the deaf students at Rachid’s school lost their hearing as he did: after infection with meningitis.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Safiatou Ouedraogo, 23, at home in Saaba with her two-year-old twins Celie and Celine and Shislaine Leboudo, 7, her husband's son. Safiatou and the children got their shots as soon as they could.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.