These families were among the 220 million people vaccinated against meningitis A over five years. Photo: WHO/Burkina Faso.
MenAfriVac offers important protection for future generations
The MenAfriVac® vaccine was developed in record time and launched in communities across Africa’s meningitis belt just as quickly. In five years, more than 220 million children and adults, ages 1 through 29, were vaccinated across 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
The vaccine quickly reduced the transmission of meningococcal bacteria and created a drastic drop in illness and death rates from meningitis A. Widespread coverage of the vaccine created “herd immunity” that protects even those who have not been vaccinated against the disease. Immunity with just one dose of the vaccine can last as long as ten years.
PATH and WHO also built evidence for MenAfriVac’s safe use among infants. The vaccine received WHO prequalification—which brings international regulatory approval—of the meningitis A conjugate vaccine for infants in 2015, clearing the way for its use among the youngest people susceptible to the disease.
The vaccine broke another important barrier. Tailor-made to withstand hot climates, it was the first vaccine in Africa allowed to be transported and stored for as long as four days without refrigeration or an icepack, easing delivery and making it possible to reach even the remotest of communities.
Investing in saving lives
Julien Bonboungou looked forward to the day when his village is protected from meningitis. Read his story. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.
MenAfriVac was developed at a major cost savings—less than one-tenth the cost of the US$500 million typically needed to bring a new vaccine to market. In addition, the reduction in meningitis cases is expected to free up significant funds that countries can use to address other public health problems.
Generous funding allowed the vaccine to be introduced in mass immunization campaigns across the meningitis belt. However, funding is still needed to ensure that the vaccine is included in countries’ routine immunization programs so that infants are protected and there is no resurgence.
Toward elimination in Africa
The Meningitis Vaccine Project has concluded, but PATH’s work goes on. We are collaborating with in-country and global partners to ensure the sustainable use of MenAfriVac and the long-term control of meningitis A epidemics. We are also partnering with Serum Institute of India Ltd on a new vaccine—one that would protect against all forms of meningitis that cause illness and death in the meningitis belt.
With MenAfriVac, we proved that it is possible to put meningitis A on the run. Now we are working to ensure that all communities in the region receive a historic, lifesaving dose—and applying the lessons learned to create the next generation of vaccines.
MenAfriVac is a registered trademark of Serum Institute of India Ltd.