Three smiling boys.

In Burkina Faso, the first mass vaccination campaign is reaching 80 percent of the population. Photo: PATH/Carib Nelson.

Conjugate vaccine will stop meningitis epidemics before they start

Families and governments alike have eagerly anticipated the introduction of MenAfriVac®, a revolutionary vaccine that packs a power punch in the fight against epidemic meningitis. With the vaccine reaching Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger in country-wide vaccination campaigns in December 2010, “things are going to change dramatically,” predicts Dr. Marc LaForce, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project. In December 2011, The vaccine was also introduced in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria.

This new vaccine should provide protection for 10 to 15 years to those who have been immunized and will also block colonization of the disease, providing “herd immunity” to those who are not immunized. It’s the first conjugate vaccine to specifically target group A meningococci, the pathogen responsible for most epidemics in the region.

Julien Bonboungou

Julien Bonboungou looks forward to the day when his village is protected from meningitis. Read his story. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

In Burkina Faso, where the vaccine was launched in December 2010, the number of cases of group A meningitis dropped dramatically during the first year of use. If herd immunity is established, the number of cases will fall even further in subsequent years.

The vaccine, in effect, holds promise for unprecedented change in the countries of Africa’s meningitis belt and in households so long conditioned to close their doors when the winds begin to blow.

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

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