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Three new countries in Africa’s meningitis belt are poised to vaccinate 22 million people against epidemic meningitis next month. Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria will become the fourth, fifth, and sixth countries to introduce the groundbreaking MenAfriVac™ vaccine against deadly meningococcal A meningitis. In addition, Mali and Niger, which first introduced the vaccine last year, are vaccinating 14 million more people this month in the final phase of their immunization campaigns.

MenAfriVac™ was developed through the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization. The first vaccine designed specifically for Africa, MenAfriVac™ targets the strain of meningitis that has plagued sub-Saharan Africa with deadly and debilitating epidemics for more than a century.

No cases last season

The first mass vaccination campaigns with MenAfriVac™ began in December 2010 in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, reaching nearly 20 million people and leading to a dramatic drop in the number of meningitis cases. As the epidemic season came to a close in June, not a single case of meningitis A had been reported in the individuals who had been vaccinated with MenAfriVac™.

Research shows that widespread introduction of MenAfriVac™ in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent more than one million cases of illness and free up as much as US$300 million over the next decade. Developed at a cost of less than US$.50 a dose, the vaccine is a highly affordable solution to a pervasive health threat. But an estimated US$375 million is needed for the vaccine to reach all 25 countries of the meningitis belt. PATH and our partners are supporting efforts to secure funding for vaccination in the remaining countries.

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Posted November 15, 2011.