Vaccines For Africa

Students at Concordia are taking action to help save lives in Africa by raising funds to purchase vaccines that fight the effects of meningitis.

It’s called the Meningitis Vaccine Project and a donation of only 50 cents will purchase a vaccination. Project partners hope to inoculate 300 million people in the African meningitis belt by 2015.

Arthur Gutnik ’13, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Marc Pritchard ’13, Hawley, Minn., are the students leading the fundraising effort.

Gutnik says they expect to raise enough funds to provide for 700 inoculations. He says an anonymous benefactor from Fargo-Moorhead is matching all funds donated by students.

“This shows how far a dollar can go and how much good a small gift can make,” says Gutnik. “It’s low cost with a high impact.”

The Meningitis Vaccine Project is a partnership between the World Health Organization and PATH, an international nonprofit organization based in Seattle. The funds raised on campus will be sent to PATH, which will deliver the vaccines to the meningitis belt and provide the inoculations.

“So we know exactly where the money is going,” says Pritchard. “Every dollar we raise will be spent on vaccines.”

Gutnik says he’s heartened by the response from students.

“Some have told me they are contributing their lunch money for one day,” he says. “What matters is that something is being done here on campus that has a global impact.”

Meningitis is an inflammation of membranes that surround the brain, and is caused by infection by bacteria or viruses and can lead to deafness or death.

Gutnik and Pritchard learned about the seriousness of meningitis infections in a microbiology class taught by Dr. Ellen Aho, then heard of PATH in Dr. Peter Hovde’s global sustainability class.

“We put the two together and quickly saw how we could take on a global project that would be affordable for students, yet do a lot of good,” says Gutnik.

He says the vaccination project started when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided a global health grant to improve the lives of people living in Africa’s meningitis belt.