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.