Meningitis: Indian Vaccine Will Protect Infants Also

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  • A meningitis -A vaccine (MenAfriVac) manufactured by Serum Institute of India, Pune was approved by WHO a few days ago for use in infants in sub-Saharan African populations.
  • The vaccine will be introduced as part of the routine immunisation programme.
  • A WHO release said:In the four years since its introduction in Africa, MenAfriVac has had an immediate and dramatic impact in breaking the cycle of meningitis A epidemics,”
  • The vaccine has already been used in those aged 1-29 years.
  • But with the WHO’s approval, the vaccine can be given to infants
  • Thereby  protecting million more children at risk of the deadly disease.
  • About 200,000 people suffer from meningitis every year in the region.
  • Dr. Suresh Jadhav, Executive Director of Serum Institute said: Like in the case of measles, not many meningitis cases are seen in children younger than one year.
  • A mother, who has had meningitis, transmits the meningitis antibodies to newborns and these antibodies protect them for one year.
  • Every individual living in the meningitis belt gets infected with meningitis before the age of 29 years and hence mothers invariably carry antibodies against the disease.
  • The WHO has approved the use of a 5 microgram dose of the vaccine for children, which will be administered when they are nine months old.
  • Explaining the rationale for choosing to immunise at ninth month, Dr. Jadhav said: It’s one opportunity to treat both measles and meningitis.
  • According to Dr. Jadhav, the first meningitis dose will protect a child for five years and a booster dose will confer lifelong protection.
  • A booster dose will be given when the child is 12-18 months old.
  • Though a single campaign has been carried out to cover a large population in 15 countries, those born after the campaign have not received the MenAfriVac vaccine and are hence vulnerable to meningitis infection.
  • With the introduction of the vaccine as part of the immunisation schedule, these children will also be protected.
  • The campaign mode will continue till 2017 in 3-4 countries per year.
  • The current demand for the vaccine is 50-55 million.
  • Once the campaign comes to an end, the demand will be directly proportional to the number of children born in the meningitis-endemic countries.
  • The Serum Institute had successfully made the vaccine heat stable
  • The vaccine was made heat stable by freeze-drying it.
  • This was done so that it can remain outside the cold chain at temperatures less than 40 degree C for up to four days without the potency getting affected.
  • Before it was made heat stable, the vaccine had to be kept in a cold chain at 2-8 degree C at all time.
  • The Serum Institute successfully demonstrated that the stability and potency of the meningitis vaccine remained intact even when exposed to higher temperature.
  • The heat stable nature of the vaccine proved to be a game changer in meningitis control and made it possible to cover a large number of people through the campaign mode.
  • Dr. Jacob John, a former virologist of the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore  opined: It’s a great Indian success story.
  • A study published in the WHO bulletin showed that using a CTC approach can reduce the cold chain related campaign costs by 50 per cent.