March 7, 2024

Nigeria pioneers new vaccine for meningitis outbreak

Nigeria pioneers new vaccine for meningitis outbreak

Nigeria is to become the first country to receive a groundbreaking new MenFive vaccine aimed at combating meningitis outbreaks in the country.

According to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), on its official website on Thursday, the vaccine shows promise in combating the current Meningococci C outbreak in the country.

Meningitis, according to the World Health Organisation, is transmitted from person to person through droplets of respiratory and throat secretions and is an infection of the meninges, the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

The potentially fatal illness, impacting the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord, poses a significant danger in regions like Africa.

GAVI said the vaccine, developed through a remarkable 13-year collaboration between PATH and the Serum Institute of India with support from the UK Government, targeted five main strains of meningococcal meningitis, including the elusive serogroup X.

This means it can offer vital protection against a range of meningitis strains prevalent in Africa.

The Director of High Impact Countries at Gavi, Dr Tokunbo Oshin, said with outbreaks of infectious diseases on the rise worldwide, innovations such as MenFive were critical in helping the world fight back.

“Thanks to vaccines, we have eliminated large and disruptive outbreaks of meningitis A in Africa; now we have a tool to respond to other meningococcal meningitis serogroups that still cause large outbreaks, resulting in long-term disability and deaths.”

He said the deployment of the MenFive vaccine not only aimed to address the immediate crisis but also signalled a broader initiative to strengthen vaccination efforts in high-risk countries.

He noted that Gavi’s support for a multivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MMCV) programme would see the MenFive vaccine integrated into routine immunisation programmes and outbreak response strategies.

He said the vaccine would be used to respond to an ongoing meningococcus C outbreak, targeting to vaccinate around a million children in six LGAs in Jigawa State.

The LGAs are Babura, Birniwa, Gagarawa, Gumel, Maigatari, and Sule Tankarkar.

NAN reports that Meningitis outbreak in the country indicates that as of March 3, 82 LGAs across 22 states have reported 1,402 suspected cases, 101 confirmed cases, and 123 fatalities, resulting in a case fatality rate of 9.4 per cent since October 2023.

The age group most affected by the outbreak is 5–14 years old, followed by 15–29 years old.

Notably, Yobe, Bauchi, Jigawa, Gombe, and Katsina states collectively account for 94 per cent of the cases in the country. (NAN)