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.