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15 Apr, 2024 15:01

Nigeria first in the world to launch new vaccine against meningitis

Over 150 people died due to an outbreak of the disease in the African nation between October and March this year, according to WHO
Nigeria first in the world to launch new vaccine against meningitis

Nigeria has rolled out a new meningitis vaccine – Men5CV – becoming the first country in the world to do so, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday, hailing the move as a step closer to the global goal of eliminating the disease by 2030.

The former British colony launched an emergency vaccination campaign late last month, seeking to reach more than 1 million people aged 1-29, the WHO said in a statement published on its website. The vaccination activities are funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which also funds the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and assists low-income countries with routine immunization against infection, the statement added.

Meningitis is an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, as well as bloodstream infections, both of which can quickly become fatal. The bacteria are spread through sharing respiratory or throat secretions such as saliva or spit and usually require prolonged exposure, such as kissing or being close to someone coughing.

According to the global health agency, the “revolutionary” vaccine protects against five major strains (A, C, W, Y, and X) of the Meningococcus bacteria that cause the disease, which is prevalent in the West African nation. With just a single shot, it provides broader protection than the current A conjugate vaccine MenAfriVac used in much of Africa, which is only effective against the A strain, WHO 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,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

More than 1740 suspected meningitis cases, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 deaths, have been recorded in Nigeria, one of 26 hotspots of the disease in Africa, between October 2023 and March 11, 2024, WHO data shows. In February, local media reported that 20 students in Nigeria’s northern Yobe state had died as a result of meningitis outbreaks.

“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 and also put the country on a path to elimination,” Nigerian Health Minister Muhammad Ali Pate said.

The Men5CV vaccine, which has the brand name MenFive, was developed over a 13-year period in partnership between the non-profit Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and the Serum Institute of India, with funding from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office. WHO approved the serum last July, and in October, it issued an official recommendation to countries to begin using it.

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