The first meningococcal A conjugate vaccine, introduced nationwide in Burkina Faso on 6 December 2010, is expected to eliminate the primary cause of epidemic meningitis in Africa, if introduced in all 25 countries of what has become known as the “meningitis belt”.
Designed specifically to protect against group A meningococcus, which accounts for 80-85% of cases of meningitis in the 25 countries of the African “meningitis belt”, the vaccine is priced than US$ 0.50 per dose, and cost less than one-tenth of the US$ 500 million usually required to develop and bring a vaccine to market.
The vaccine was developed by the Meningitis Vaccine Project — a partnership between WHO and the international non-profit PATH, working closely with public health officials in countries of the meningitis belt, and research institutions across the world. It was manufactured by an Indian company, which agreed from the outset to accept technology transfer from companies with expertise in vaccine conjugation, and to sell the vaccine at a price affordable for African countries.
Mali and Niger are also beginning nationwide campaigns with the new vaccine in December. It is expected that, if the funding gap of US$ 475 million is met, all 25 countries in the meningitis belt will be using the vaccine by 2015.
Photo credit : WHO