As Nigeria introduces meningitis vaccine into routine immunisation schedule, here are important points you should note

The Government of Nigeria, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), is planning to add a new vaccine to the current immunisation schedule.

The new vaccine, when taken, will help children to develop immunity against meningitis caused by the bacteria Neisseria menigitidis serougroup A.

It is noteworthy that majority of cases – about 80% – of meningococcal meningitis infections occurring in the Meningitis Belt (see list below) are caused by this strain – Serogroup A of meningococcus.

The new vaccine is expected to be launched across all states in Nigeria on 9th August 2019. It is called MenAFriVacTM.

Key facts about Meningitis from WHO

  • Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis, a serious infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
  • Meningococcal meningitis is associated with high fatality (up to 50% when untreated) and high frequency (more than 10%) of severe sequelae. Early antibiotic treatment is the most important measure to save lives and reduce complications.
  • Meningococcal meningitis is observed worldwide but the highest burden of the disease is in the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Around 30 000 cases are still reported each year from that area.

How meningitis it spread?

Meningitis is spread from person to person via droplets and contact with infected persons.

What should you watch out for?

The disease typically begins with sudden-onset of intense headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and neck stiffness. Newborns may only show slowness, irritability and feed poorly.

Are you or your children at risk?

See the meningitis belt in the map below. Do you live in the areas highlighted on the map? If yes, then you are at risk.
According to CDC, meningoccocal meningitis threatens an estimated 450 million people across sub-Saharan Africa, many of them children and young adults.

Where are the Meningitis Belt in Africa?

Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Cote d’ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of The Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Meningitis-Belt.png
Meningitis Belt |Source: Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia.

What is MenAfriVacTM?

The Meningococcal A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac™) protects against serogroup A meningococcal meningitis, saving lives and money.

MenAfriVacTM is the vaccine that individuals are given to help them develop necessary defence system to ward off infections that can otherwise result from Serogroup A meningococcus bacteria.

It is a conjugate monovalent lyophilised vaccine covalently bonded to to the tetanus antitoxin as a carrier protein. It comes in powder form and must be reconstituted at use.

Source: NPHCDA|Basic Guide on Routine Immunization for Service Providers in Nigeria, September 2017.

The vaccine is targeted to protect 450 million people at risk for meningococcal meningitis by 2018 and save nearly 150,000 lives.

MenAfriVac™ costs only $0.40 per dose, about NGN143.227 – just about the cost of a litre of petrol – far less than the $90 (NGN32,226.00) needed to treat just one person with the disease ( which does not guarantee survival).

Currency Converter: Oanda.com

Routine MenAfriVac™ immunization programs are estimated to save up to $32.3 million from 2015 to 2035 compared to vaccination campaigns held in response to an outbreak or epidemic.

Why is MenAfriVac™ suited for Africa?

According to CDC, MenAfriVac™ is the first vaccine made specifically for use in Africa and the vaccine can go up to 4 days without refrigeration or an ice pack because it is heat-stable, thus allowing for safe delivery to people in even the remotest areas.

In addition, the vaccine is also relatively of low cost.

Consequently, it is particularly suited for countries still struggling to provide regular power source to meet even the most basic human needs.

So at what age is the vaccine to be given to a child?

MenAfriVacTM is given at 9 months of age and a child is expected to take 1 dose as part of routine immunization schedule.

Is MenAfriVacTM safe?

Yes. MenAfriVacTM is safe and no serious adverse events have been associated with them other than minor local reactions common to other injectable vaccines, which Nigerian children are already taking.

At the end of 2018, CDC estimated that over 300 million individuals in about 21 countries had already taken the vaccine. This suggests that for such huge population that were vaccinated, the safety of MenAfriVacTM was not drawn into question.

No doubt, the introduction of routine MenAfriVac™ is a giant step toward achieving elimination of epidemic meningitis in sub-Saharan Africa.

If you want more information, officials advised that you should contact the local health authority in your local government area.

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona is a medical doctor by training and a writer by passion. Samuel holds a postgraduate degree in Public Health. He believes that communicating medical knowledge goes beyond writing technical reviews. Samuel thus uses his expertise in public health and health systems research to transmit technical information for both academic and general audience. Please email samuel.abiona@essaysinhealth.com to contact this author directly or use the contact page and your information will be passed on to him.

One Comment

  1. Dr,
    you are a great resource person in medical field may Almighty Allah continue to guide you in educating public concerning their health.

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