Original report posted on February 25, 2013.Report revised in June 2013 to remove photo.
Just over two years ago, a child in the African nation of Burkina Faso became the first person to receive a revolutionary new vaccine against deadly meningitis A. Today, PATH and our partners are celebrating another remarkable milestone: more than 100 million people across ten African countries have received that same lifesaving protection.
The president of Benin hosted a celebration in November 2012 marking the 100 millionth person vaccinated with the MenAfriVac® vaccine, an event attended by delegates from many of Africa’s 26 “meningitis belt” countries. The achievement was further recognized in early December at the GAVI Alliance Partners’ Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Since December 2010, the MenAfriVac® vaccine has been introduced in countries across sub-Saharan Africa through mass vaccination campaigns aimed at eliminating epidemic meningitis as a public health problem.
The MenAfriVac® vaccine has significantly reduced the burden of meningitis in those countries. To date, not a single case of group A meningococcal meningitis has been reported in the 54 million people who received one dose of MenAfriVac® in 2010–2011.
MenAfriVac®, a registered trademark of Serum Institute of India Ltd., was developed by PATH and the World Health Organization, at the request of African countries and working with two dozen global collaborators.
Seasonal meningitis A epidemics threaten the lives of 450 million people living in the meningitis belt. The disease causes inflammation of the lining around the brain and the spine that can kill people within 24 to 48 hours. Those who survive often face severe learning difficulties and deafness. Children and young adults are at the highest risk.
Original report posted on November 27, 2012.Report revised in June 2013 to remove photo.
The MenAfriVac® vaccine against deadly meningococcal A meningitis will become the first vaccine in Africa approved to be transported and stored for up to four days without refrigeration or icepacks, allowing health workers to reach more people in remote areas of the continent.
After a rigorous regulatory review, authorities found the vaccine to be stable even when exposed to high temperatures. That means the vaccine can be kept in a “controlled temperature chain,” rather than the traditional “cold chain,” for up to four days at temperatures up to 104°F.
The decision is expected to help country governments save money on expensive cold chain equipment and systems used to deliver vaccines to rural areas. And those savings could translate into more lives saved.
The new guideline, announced in November, also represents a potential breakthrough for immunization programs in low-resource countries, building momentum for using the same controlled temperature chain concept with other vaccines.
Benin recently became the tenth country to launch a MenAfriVac® vaccination campaign and the first to pilot the use of the vaccine in a controlled temperature chain based on the new regulatory guidelines. As part of that pilot, 11-year-old Mikael from northern Benin became the first person ever to receive a vaccine distributed through a controlled temperature chain. The protection he now has against meningitis will help ensure he can pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.
The Meningitis Vaccine Project—a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization—expects that by the end of 2012, more than 100 million people in Africa’s meningitis belt will have received the lifesaving vaccine.
This spring, the Meningitis Vaccine Project was recognized with the Vaccine Industry Excellence Award for the PATH–World Health Organization (WHO) collaboration that produced the MenAfriVac™ meningitis A vaccine. The partnership owes much of its success to the funder, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and to the manufacturer of the vaccine, the Serum Institute of India, Ltd. Countless other organizations and experts have contributed over the years, each one playing a critical role in the vaccination of now 58 million young Africans against deadly meningitis.
With MenAfriVac™ introduced in six countries in the meningitis belt, the Cameroon Ministry of Health, WHO, and other partners convened a meeting in Douala, Cameroon, in May to evaluate previous vaccination campaigns. Representatives from countries that have already launched campaigns (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria) and countries that will launch their first introduction campaigns in 2012 (Benin, Ghana, Senegal, and Sudan) shared experiences and discussed effective procedures to be implemented in future campaigns.
The highlight of our summer vaccination efforts was seeing widespread support for the vaccine as Chad moved into the second phase of introduction. The ten-day campaign sought to vaccinate around 3 million Chadians between the ages of 1 and 29 years. Dedicated immunization staff worked into the evening—and even into the night—to allow field laborers, fishermen, and day-time workers to get vaccinated.
Preparations for the next round of vaccination campaigns continue to advance smoothly. Stay tuned for another update on the MenAfriVac™ roll-out this fall.
With 54.6 million young Africans now vaccinated against deadly meningitis A in six countries, the Meningitis Vaccine Project—a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization—has plans under way to reach four new countries with the MenAfriVac™ vaccine by the end of 2012.
Benin, Ghana, Senegal, and Sudan are preparing for their first round of vaccination campaigns to be held later this year. Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria are preparing for the second phase of their vaccination campaigns after the successful launch of MenAfriVac™ in those countries in December 2011. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger completed their national vaccination programs in 2010 and 2011.
Each campaign brings us closer to our goal—eliminating epidemic meningitis as a public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, there have been no reported cases of group A meningococcal meningitis among individuals who received the vaccine. In countries that have introduced MenAfriVac™ at large scale, scientists continue to monitor meningitis activity and vaccine effectiveness.
Building on these successes, clinical trials in The Gambia, Ghana, Mali, and Senegal are helping to build the evidence base for the safe use of MenAfriVac™ and to investigate the level and duration of the protection it offers against disease. These data will also be important in future efforts to seek regulatory approval for the vaccine to be used in infants. This, in turn, would open the door to integrating the vaccine into routine childhood vaccination schedules.
By 2016, it is expected that 320 million people in 25 African countries will have received this lifesaving vaccine. Over the next decade, MenAfriVac™ has the potential to prevent 1 million cases of illness and save 150,000 lives and $300 million in medical costs.
At the end of 2011, we celebrated the launch of MenAfriVac™ in a new group of countries and the successful completion of vaccine introduction in the original three.
As planned, in December 2011, Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria became the fourth, fifth, and sixth countries in the African meningitis belt to introduce the new meningitis vaccine. All told, more than 20 million were protected: 15 million in Nigeria, 4 million in Cameroon, and 1.8 million in Chad.
Mali and Niger, both part of the historic launch of the vaccine in December 2010, successfully completed their phased approach to introduction. Both countries achieved coverage rates higher than 90 percent nationwide in the target age group (1 to 29 years old, the age of greatest risk). With help from Doctors Without Borders, Mali alone vaccinated more than 6 million people who did not receive the vaccine’s protection during the first round.
Results are highly promising: As 2011 came to an end, not a single case of group A meningococcal meningitis has been reported among the almost 20 million people who were vaccinated during the 2010 launch. All countries will continue to monitor and document the vaccine’s effectiveness.
What’s next? Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria will continue their own phased introductions—hopefully, with equally impressive coverage rates—in 2012 and 2013. The three countries will conduct in-depth campaign evaluations in early 2012 to fine-tune their immunization strategies and prepare for the next phase of work.
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