Nigeria To Receive Maiden Meningitis Vaccine


In response to the ongoing meningitis outbreak in some parts of the country, Nigeria would become the first country to receive the new MenFive meningitis vaccine from the Vaccine Alliance-funded global stockpile.

According to a statement issued by Gavi on Thursday, March 7, 2024, the shipment would be delivered by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes meningitis as an infection of the meninges, the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, it is transmitted from person to person through droplets of respiratory and throat secretions.

Symptoms of the disease include hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb loss, or other disabilities and death, and can also be triggered by viruses, fungi, or parasites.

The African meningitis belt stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east (26 countries), including the northern part of Nigeria.

Meningitis in these countries follows a seasonal pattern, being most common during the dry season (December through June) with a peak between March and April when there is persistent low air humidity and high dust loads that are believed to damage the pharyngeal mucosa and ease the colonization of the nasopharyngeal epithelium by the meningococci.

The statement noted that the vaccine doses will be used to respond to an ongoing meningococcus C outbreak, targeting to vaccinate around a million children in six local government areas in Jigawa state – Babura, Birniwa, Gagarawa, Gumel, Maigatari, and Sule Tankarkar.

The MenFive vaccine, developed through a 13-year collaboration between PATH and Serum Institute of India, with support from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, received WHO prequalification in July 2023. The vaccine protects against the five main serogroups of meningococcal meningitis impacting Africa – meningococcal serogroups A, C, W, Y, and X. It is the only vaccine that protects against serogroup X.

As of the end of 2023, the global meningococcal vaccine stockpile had been accessed 62 times by 16 countries since 2009, with more than 29 million doses deployed from the stockpile in support of countries.

According to the statement, “Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance funds the global stockpiles of vaccines against cholera, Ebola, meningitis and yellow fever, and supports outbreak response campaigns in lower-income countries.

“Country requests to these stockpiles are managed by the WHO’s International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision.

“The ICG approved the deployment of 1,043,377 doses of MenFive in response to Nigeria’s request”.

Commenting on the milestones, the Director of High Impact Countries at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Tokunbo Oshin said, “With outbreaks of infectious diseases on the rise worldwide, new innovations such as MenFive are critical in helping us fight back.

“Thanks to vaccines, we have eliminated large and disruptive outbreaks of meningitis A in Africa: now we have a tool to respond to other meningococcal meningitis serogroups that still cause large outbreaks resulting in long-term disability and deaths.

“Gavi will be working closely with the Nigerian government as well as our partners such as UNICEF and WHO to support the response to this outbreak.”

Gavi added that this first shipment signals the start of its support for a multivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine programme, which will see the MenFive vaccine rolled out through outbreak response, routine immunisation, and catch-up campaigns in high-risk countries.

“Over the years, Gavi has worked with countries to support vaccination against meningitis A, reaching nearly 400 million children through campaigns and routine immunisation. These efforts have helped Africa defeat meningitis A, with no new cases detected since 2017.

“The addition of MenFive into health systems’ toolkit holds out the possibility that the other circulating serogroups could also one day be defeated”, the statement said.

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