Nigeria Leads Globally with Introduction of Revolutionary 5-in-1 Meningitis Vaccine

In a groundbreaking development, Nigeria has emerged as the global pioneer in introducing a new vaccine, known as Men5CV, endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This innovative vaccine provides protection against five strains of the meningococcus bacteria. The initiative, including the vaccine and accompanying emergency vaccination efforts, receives funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which supports the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and facilitates routine vaccination in lower-income countries.

Situated within the African Meningitis Belt, Nigeria stands among the 26 hyper-endemic countries for meningitis in Africa. Last year witnessed a staggering 50% surge in reported meningitis cases across the continent.

Nigeria faced an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C, resulting in 1742 suspected cases of meningitis, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 fatalities across seven states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara) between October 1, 2023, and March 11, 2024. To combat this crisis, a vaccination campaign was initiated from March 25 to 28, 2024, targeting over one million individuals aged 1-29 years.

Meningitis, characterized by the inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, poses a severe health threat. It can be caused by various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Symptoms typically include headache, fever, and a stiff neck, with bacterial meningitis posing the gravest risk, potentially leading to blood poisoning and fatalities within 24 hours.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, hailed the new vaccine as a potential game-changer in the fight against meningitis, emphasizing its capacity to avert future outbreaks and save countless lives. The Men5CV vaccine offers comprehensive protection against five major meningococcal bacteria strains (A, C, W, Y, and X) in a single dose, surpassing the efficacy of previous vaccines limited to the A strain.

This breakthrough vaccine holds promise for significantly reducing meningitis cases and advancing global efforts to combat the disease, particularly in regions like Nigeria where multiple serogroups are prevalent. The technology behind the new vaccine mirrors that of the successful meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac®), which effectively eradicated meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria.

Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate of the Nigerian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare underscored the significance of the vaccine rollout, especially in regions like Northern Nigeria severely impacted by the meningitis outbreak. He emphasized the collaborative efforts with community leaders and the essential role of preparedness in deploying the vaccine effectively.

The development of the multivalent conjugate vaccine, Men5CV, was a result of a 13-year partnership between PATH and the Serum Institute of India, with crucial financing from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

WHO’s prequalification of Men5CV in July 2023, followed by its official recommendation to countries in October 2023, paved the way for Gavi’s allocation of resources for the vaccine rollout in December 2023. While the vaccine is currently available for outbreak response through emergency stockpiles, mass preventive campaigns are slated to commence in 2025 across Meningitis Belt countries.

Andrew Mitchell, UK Minister for Development and Africa, highlighted the significance of the vaccine rollout in saving lives and advancing the global goal of defeating meningitis by 2030. He emphasized the pivotal role of scientific innovation, supported by the UK, in driving breakthroughs against diseases.

WHO has been actively supporting the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) in responding to the meningitis outbreak, including surveillance, case management, and healthcare worker training.

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