Meningococcal Vaccine Use Expanding in Africa

November 21, 2011 Anonymous

Emergency mass vaccination campaigns are difficult to implement quickly and effectively. Photo credit: Monique Berlier/PATH.Nearly a year ago, the History of Vaccines blog covered the introduction of MenAfriVac (PsA-TT) to the African meningitis belt, an area stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, where epidemic waves of meningitis occur and can last up to three years. In the largest of these epidemic waves in history, meningitis killed more than 25,000 people from 1996 to 1997. MenAfriVac, a vaccine against the Group A type of meningococci bacteria that causes 80 to 85% of meningitis cases in the African epidemics, was the result of a collaboration between the World Health Organization (WHO) and PATH. The first vaccine developed specifically for use in Africa, it was introduced last year in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, with almost 20 million people aged 1 to 29 (the age range most at risk) being vaccinated.

In June, the History of Vaccines blog noted that all three countries were reporting record lows in confirmed Group A meningitis cases during an epidemic season. PATH now reports that at the close of the epidemic season during the summer, there had not been a single case of Group A meningitis among those who had received the vaccine.

Now the MenAfriVac vaccine is being introduced to three more African countries: Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria. Starting in December, the three countries will vaccinate more than 22 million people to protect against epidemic meningitis. PATH also reports that Mali and Niger, now in the final phase of the immunization campaigns started last December, are vaccinating another 14 million people this month.

For more information about the Meningitis Vaccine Project and MenAfriVac, visit PATH's MVP website.

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