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Nigeria Leads With Groundbreaking MenFive Vaccine To Combat Meningitis

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MenFive Vaccine

Nigeria is set to be the first country to receive the groundbreaking MenFive vaccine, heralding a crucial development in the fight against meningococcal meningitis in the region.

As announced by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) on Thursday, the MenFive vaccine demonstrates promise in addressing the current meningococcus C outbreak in Nigeria, a country where the potentially fatal illness poses a severe threat.

Meningitis, transmitted through respiratory and throat secretions, is an infection of the meninges—the thin lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. With the protective membranes around these vital organs affected, the disease becomes particularly perilous, especially in regions like Africa.

GAVI revealed that the MenFive vaccine, a result of an extraordinary 13-year collaboration between PATH and the Serum Institute of India, with support from the UK government, targets five main strains of meningococcal meningitis, including the elusive serogroup X. This implies that the vaccine can provide crucial protection against various meningitis strains prevalent in Africa.

Director of high impact countries at Gavi, Dr. Tokunbo Oshin emphasised the significance of innovations like MenFive in the global fight against infectious diseases. He highlighted the success in eliminating large outbreaks of meningitis A in Africa through vaccines and expressed optimism about addressing other meningococcal meningitis serogroups causing significant outbreaks and resulting in long-term disability and deaths.

“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,” said Oshin.

The deployment of the MenFive vaccine is not only geared toward addressing the immediate crisis but also signifies a broader initiative to strengthen vaccination efforts in high-risk countries. Oshin outlined Gavi’s support for a multivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MMCV) programme, integrating the MenFive vaccine into routine immunisation programmes and outbreak response strategies.

The initial phase will involve vaccinating around a million children in six local government areas (LGAs) in Jigawa state, specifically targeting the LGAs of Babura, Birniwa, Gagarawa, Gumel, Maigatari and Sule Tankarkar. This strategic approach aims to contain the ongoing meningococcus C outbreak.

It is noteworthy that as of March 3, 2024, 82 local government areas across 22 states reported 1,402 suspected cases, 101 confirmed cases and 123 fatalities due to the meningitis outbreak. The age group most affected is 5-14 years, followed by 15-29 years, with Yobe, Bauchi, Jigawa, Gombe and Katsina collectively representing 94 per cent of the reported cases in the country.

Nigeria’s pioneering role in adopting the MenFive vaccine signals a significant step forward in the battle against meningitis, offering hope for effective prevention and control of this deadly disease.

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