Boy receiving a vaccination in his upper arm.

Twenty million people in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger are the first to receive protection from meningitis. Photo: WHO/Burkina Faso.

With a vaccine in hand, Africa begins to eliminate epidemic meningitis

In 2010 the MenAfriVac® vaccine cleared its final hurdles. First, the Maharashtra state Food and Drug Administration in India granted Serum Institute marketing authorization to export and use the vaccine in Africa. Then, after a detailed evaluation, WHO announced prequalification of the vaccine, certifying that it meets international standards of quality, safety, and efficacy.

On December 6, 2010, countrywide vaccination campaigns with MenAfriVac began. By the end of the year, the campaigns had reached 20 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, three of the most affected countries of the meningitis belt. In December 2011, the vaccine was introduced in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria. By the end of the year, it had reached 54.5 million people. The hope is that vaccination campaigns will reach the other countries in the region over the next few years.

Young girl holding her vaccination record, with text, 'View slideshow.'

Portraits from the vaccine launch in Burkina Faso show the hope for an end to epidemic meningitis. View the slideshow. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

People ages 1 to 29 years are the first to receive the vaccine, which immediately reduces the transmission of bacteria and rapidly reduces the risk of illness or death from meningitis. MVP and partners are continuing clinical trials in children younger than one to develop a strategy to protect newborns.

Today, less than a decade after the creation of MVP, the solution is at hand to halt deadly and debilitating group A meningococcal meningitis epidemics.

MenAfriVac is a registered trademark of Serum Institute of India Ltd.

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