Home Health & Living History-making Nigeria becomes 1st country to roll out new meningitis vaccine

History-making Nigeria becomes 1st country to roll out new meningitis vaccine

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Nigeria has become the first country to roll out a new meningitis vaccine (Men5CV) recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to WHO, this is especially important for countries like Nigeria where multiple serogroups are prevalent. The new vaccine uses the same technology as the meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac®), which wiped out meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria.

The vaccine and emergency vaccination activities are funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which funds the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and supports lower-income countries with routine vaccination against meningitis.

WHO stated that the revolutionary new vaccine offers a powerful shield against the five major strains of the meningococcal bacteria (A, C, W, Y and X) in a single shot. All five strains cause meningitis and blood poisoning.

This, it noted, provides broader protection than the current vaccine used in much of Africa, which is only effective against the A strain.

The new vaccine is said to have the potential to significantly reduce meningitis cases and advance progress in defeating meningitis.

WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Meningitis is an old and deadly foe, but this new vaccine holds the potential to change the trajectory of the disease, preventing future outbreaks and saving many lives .

“Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal to eliminate meningitis by 2030″.

Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate said: “Northern Nigeria, particularly the states of Jigawa, Bauchi and Yobe were badly hit by the deadly outbreak of meningitis, and this vaccine provides health workers with a new tool to both stop this outbreak but also put the country on a path to elimination.

“We’ve done a lot of work preparing health workers and the health system for the rollout of this new vaccine. We got invaluable support from our populations despite this fasting period and from our community leaders especially the Emir of Gumel in Jigawa state who personally launched the vaccination campaign in the state. We’ll be monitoring progress closely and hopefully expanding the immunization in the coming months and years to accelerate progress”.

This new multivalent conjugate vaccine was 13 years in the making and was based on a partnership between PATH and the Serum Institute of India.

Financing from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office was critical to its development.

Nigeria is one of the 26 meningitis hyper-endemic countries of Africa, situated in the area known as the African Meningitis Belt. Last year, there was a 50% jump in annual meningitis cases reported across Africa.

In Nigeria, an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C outbreak led to 1742 suspected meningitis cases, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 deaths in seven of 36 Nigerian states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara) between 1 October 2023 and 11 March 2024.

To quell the deadly outbreak, a vaccination campaign has been undertaken on 25–28 March 2024 to initially reach more than one million people aged 1-29 years.

Meningitis is a serious infection that leads to the inflammation of the membranes (meninges) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

There are multiple causes of meningitis, including viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic pathogens. Symptoms often include headache, fever and stiff neck.

Bacterial meningitis is the most serious, can also result in septicaemia (blood poisoning), and can seriously disable or kill within 24 hours those that contract it.

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