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Group of smiling children.

This is the first time in history that a vaccine has been designed specifically for Africa. Photo: PATH/Monique Berlier.

For more than a century, meningitis has swept across sub-Saharan Africa on dusty winds with unstoppable force. With each epidemic, the disease decimates communities, killing one in ten people who are sickened and leaving one-quarter of survivors severely debilitated. Mothers have desperately awaited the seasonal “rains of hope” to dampen the winds and wash away the disease for another year.

But now a powerful solution is in hand—one that will stop deadly meningitis in its tracks.

On December 6, 2010, people across Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger began receiving a shot of a new and promising meningitis vaccine as the first nationwide vaccination campaigns with MenAfriVac® kicked off. To date, more than 150 million people have received the vaccine, which was developed specifically to protect from meningococcal A meningitis, the strain of the disease most destructive to people living in Africa’s meningitis belt.

Young girl holding her vaccination record, with text, 'View slideshow.'

Portraits from the vaccine launch in Burkina Faso show the hope for an end to epidemic meningitis. View the slideshow. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

MenAfriVac signifies many milestones for the region: The first time in history that a vaccine has been specifically designed for Africa. The first vaccine ever introduced in Africa before reaching any other continents. And the first time mothers will not have to live in fear of a meningitis epidemic taking away their children and destroying lives.

Created through the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a unique partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization, the vaccine has the potential to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Developed at less than one-tenth the cost of a typical new vaccine, it is a groundbreaking solution that represents hope for a region that, until now, has lived in fear each time the strong winds of the dry season begin to blow.

MenAfriVac is a registered trademark of Serum Institute of India Ltd.

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