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.