Protect children in Africa from deadly meningitis

by PATH
Vetted

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.

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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.

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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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A new round of immunization campaigns will reach 36 million more people by the end of 2011 with protection against meningitis A. Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria are the fourth, fifth, and sixth countries to introduce the revolutionary new MenAfriVac™ vaccine, providing a contiguous block of immunized populations across the heart of Africa’s meningitis belt. Their immunization campaigns in December will reach 22 million people. Additionally, Mali and Niger will vaccinate 14 million more people in the final phase of their immunization campaigns. By the end of 2011, nearly 65 million people are expected to have received the MenAfriVac™ vaccine.

Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso were the first to introduce MenAfriVac™ in a massive immunization campaign in December 2010 to provide protection against devastating meningitis epidemics. While Burkina Faso launched the vaccine nationwide, immunizing close to 100 percent of its target population, Mali and Niger opted for a phased approach, beginning in districts at highest risk.

As the 2010-11 epidemic season came to a close in June, surveillance data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) show just four confirmed cases of meningitis A in Burkina Faso. Three of the four cases occurred in individuals from neighboring Togo who crossed the border for medical care, and the fourth case was a citizen of Burkina Faso who had not received the new vaccine. No confirmed cases were reported in Mali, while four cases were reported in Niger, all in unvaccinated individuals. While these initial data are extremely encouraging, continuing surveillance for cases of meningitis and robust systems for monitoring vaccination coverage will be crucial to confirm the impact of the vaccine as it is introduced across the meningitis belt.

Experts from PATH, WHO, and partner organizations have supported the ministries of health in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria in determining appropriate strategies for vaccine introduction to ensure sufficient vaccine supplies and availability of health care personnel, as well as adequate disease surveillance and vaccine safety monitoring systems.

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With the 2010-2011 epidemic season largely over, surveillance data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) show just four confirmed cases of meningitis A in Burkina Faso, the first country to introduce the vaccine nationwide. Three of the four cases occurred in individuals from neighboring Togo who crossed the border for medical care, and the fourth case was a citizen of Burkina Faso who had not received the new vaccine. No confirmed cases were reported in Mali, while four cases were reported in Niger, all in unvaccinated individuals. While these initial data are extremely encouraging, continuing surveillance for cases of meningitis and robust systems for monitoring vaccination coverage will be crucial to confirm the impact of the vaccine as it is introduced across the meningitis belt.

Six months ago, the three West African countries were the first to introduce a revolutionary new vaccine called MenAfriVac™, vaccinating nearly 20 million people in a massive immunization campaign. While Burkina Faso launched the vaccine nationwide, immunizing close to 100% of its target population, Mali and Niger opted for a phased approach, with campaigns in districts at highest risk conducted in late 2010 and the remainder to be conducted in late 2011.

Planning is now under way for a new round of immunization campaigns in 2011-2012. Campaigns will be finalized in Mali and Niger, and new campaigns will begin in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria, providing a contiguous block of immunized populations across the heart of the meningitis belt. Counting those vaccinated during the December 2010 campaigns, nearly 65 million people are expected to have received the MenAfriVac vaccine by the end of the year.

Experts from PATH, WHO, and partner organizations are supporting the ministries of health in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria in determining appropriate strategies for vaccine introduction to ensure sufficient vaccine supplies and availability of health care personnel, as well as adequate disease surveillance and vaccine safety monitoring systems.

 

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PATH

Location: Seattle, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.path.org/​
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Donor Relations
Seattle, WA United States

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