UN Extends Use Of Meningitis Vaccine To African Infants

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  • The World Health Organization has approved giving a groundbreaking meningitis vaccine, which does not have to be stored in fridges or iceboxes, to babies across Africa.
  • WHO’s thumbs up for MenAfriVac in mass immunisation programmes will boost the campaign against meningitis in the world’s poorest continent
  • Launched in 2010, the vaccine has been administered to more than 215 million people in the 15 countries of the African meningitis belt — Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Togo.
  • MenAfriVac was developed by MVP — a partnership between WHO and Path, a non-profit global health group
  • MenAfriVac  is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
  • Marie-Pierre Preziosi, the head of MVP said: Initial mass vaccination campaigns with MenAfriVac have been highly effective in reducing the number of meningitis A cases.
  • Until now the vaccine has only been administered those between the ages of one and 29  and Ms Preziosi warned unprotected infants could undo the progress being made.
  • Epidemics will return when rising numbers of unprotected newborns become a larger proportion of the total population over time
  • WHO’s approval means the vaccine meets international safety and quality standards and can be used in children under a year old.
  • It also paves the way for UN agencies to purchase the vaccine for use in routine immunisation programmes.
  • One of the most devastating meningitis outbreaks ever recorded in Africa occurred in 1996-1997: when an epidemic infected more than 2,50,000 people and killed over 25,000 in just a few months.
  • The only existing vaccine at the time was insufficient to break the cycle.