Nigeria, alongside 15 other African countries, were scored high in the fight against the epidemic of meningococcal meningitis A by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord which has swept across 26 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa killing and disabling young people annually or causing severe brain damage within hours.
The commendation came as a result of findings reported in a special collection of 29 articles in the journal, “Clinical Infectious Diseases,” with guest editors from the former Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between WHO and the international health non-profit organization, PATH. The global health body noted that five years after an affordable meningitis A vaccine was introduced, its use has led to the control and near elimination of the deadly meningitis A disease in the African “meningitis belt.
WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said the vaccination campaigns reached more than 237 million people aged 1 through 29 years in 16 countries including Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, CÃ´te d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, and Togo.
She further noted that out of the 26 countries in the African meningitis belt, 10 still need to fully roll out vaccination.
President and Chief Executive Officer of PATH, Steve Davis also warned that the community should not risk squandering the amazing lifesaving investment.
Davis said, “Our partnership allowed us to develop an affordable, tailor-made vaccine for use against meningitis A in sub-Saharan Africa in record time and at less than one-tenth the cost of a typical new vaccine.”
A member of the team that developed the vaccine also from WHO, Dr Marie-Pierre Preziosi, stressed the need for countries to decide how best to sustain the protection that initial mass vaccination campaigns provided. “Our experience from other vaccine-preventable diseases has shown that if we let our guard down, these diseases will severely rebound.”
One of the contributors, Dr Marc LaForce said, “The world came together to create tremendous health impact with this vaccine. We need to ensure that we finish the job with meningitis A and apply the lessons learned to the next generation of meningitis vaccines for Africa.”
MenAfriVac was introduced as an improvement over older polysaccharide vaccines, which can only be used after epidemics have started, do not protect the youngest children or infants, do not alter disease transmission and provide only short-term protection. Scientists found that 90 percent of individuals who were vaccinated with MenAfriVac still had protective antibodies in their system 5 years later.