Nigeria Becomes First Country to Roll Out New Meningitis Vaccine

April 13, 2024
New Meningitis Vaccine

By Adedapo Adesanya 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has lauded Nigeria as it becomes the first country in the world to roll out a new Meningitis vaccine called Men5CV, which protects people against five strains of the meningococcus bacteria.

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.

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.

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 per cent. jump in annual meningitis cases reported across Africa.

The World Bank said that  Nigeria faced an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C outbreak that led to 1,742 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 was undertaken on 25-28 March 2024 to initially reach more than one million people aged 1-29 years.

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 will provide broader protection than the current vaccine used in much of Africa, which is only effective against the A strain.

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

Lauding the Nigerian move, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said“Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal to eliminate meningitis by 2030.”

“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,”

On his part, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare 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,” he added.

The rollout of one million vaccines in northern Nigeria will help save lives, prevent long-term illness and boost our goal of defeating meningitis globally by 2030,” added Mr Andrew Mitchell, UK Minister for Development and Africa. “This is exactly the kind of scientific innovation, supported by the UK, which I hope is replicated in years to come to help us drive further breakthroughs, including wiping out other diseases.”

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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