MenAfriVac vaccine poised to begin entry into routine national immunization programs

July 27, 2016 by PATH

Routine African introduction to begin in Sudan

Sudan will this month incorporate MenAfriVac® into its routine childhood immunization program, ensuring that children throughout the country are protected against deadly meningitis A. Sudan will be the first country in the African meningitis belt to take this important step.

"This is an historic step in the MenAfriVac® story," said Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH. "By introducing the vaccine into the routine immunization schedule, Sudan is solidifying a commitment to protect its children for generations to come from one of the most devastating diseases in Africa."

MenAfriVac® is a conjugate vaccine against serogroup A meningococcal meningitis, the strain of meningitis that has plagued sub-Saharan Africa with debilitating epidemics for more than a century.

Since MenAfriVac®'s introduction in 2010 via mass vaccination campaign, more than 235 million people in 17 different countries have been vaccinated. Meningitis A has virtually disappeared wherever the vaccine has been used.

Achieving permanent protection

Mass vaccination campaigns, however, are not enough to provide lasting protection against the disease. To avoid a resurgence of meningitis A, it is critical that countries incorporate MenAfriVac® into routine immunization schedules within five years of their initial mass vaccination campaign. Otherwise, meningitis A could rebound, with another epidemic likely by 2025, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

To ensure continued protection for future generations, the WHO is working with African government health officials to secure routine introduction of the vaccine in every at-risk country. Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, offers meningitis belt countries financial support to introduce the vaccine into routine immunization schedules.

Innovative partnerships

MenAfriVac® was developed through the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a partnership between PATH, the World Health Organization, and Serum Institute of India Private Ltd. (SIIPL). The initiative created a new model of vaccine development based on collaboration across continents and sectors.

In developing MenAfriVac®, MVP worked to overcome one of the biggest challenges facing African nations suffering meningitis A epidemics: vaccine price. Because SIIPL was willing to create the vaccine for less than US $0.50 per dose–the price set as affordable by African health ministers–the partnership created a new vaccine in record time and at a fraction of the cost usually needed to develop and bring a new vaccine to market.

MenAfriVac® is the first vaccine to be developed specifically for Africa. It promotes herd immunity and provides relatively long-term protection, which prevents meningitis A epidemics before they start and removes the need for expensive and disruptive revaccination campaigns. The groundbreaking vaccine is also temperature stable and can be delivered outside of the cold chain, which provides access to even the most remote communities.

Looking ahead

Africa's meningitis story does not end with meningitis A. Other types of meningococcal meningitis can cause epidemics, including meningitis C, W, X, and Y. An epidemic caused by groups C and W in Niger, for instance, led to 8,500 cases and 573 deaths in 2015–a sobering reminder that the toolkit for preventing meningitis in Africa is not yet complete. PATH is again partnering with SIIPL, this time to develop an affordable conjugate vaccine against meningitis A, C, W, X, and Y. The vaccine candidate will begin early-stage clinical trials in 2016.