Meningitis A vaccine support

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Gavi is a partner in the Meningitis Vaccine Project to rid Africa's "meningitis belt" of meningitis A. Potential to prevent more than 150,000 deaths by 2015

MenAfriVac Path

A woman and her child wait to receive their vaccination on September 20, 2010, with the new MenAfriVac vaccine that will protect them against epidemics of meningitis A.

Introduction of MenAfriVac

Gavi is a major financial partner in a US$ 571 million project to rid the region of meningitis A by introducing a new vaccine, MenAfriVac, into Africa’s “meningitis belt”.

Stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, the “meningitis belt” is a region of 25 sub-Saharan countries, with a total population of about 500 million people.

Prevent 150,000 deaths by 2015

The introduction of MenAfriVac to the “meningitis belt” could prevent more than 150,000 deaths by 2015, as well as avoid significant disability and have considerable economic benefit.

Initial surveillance data from Burkina Faso, one of the first countries to receive the vaccine suggests that it is highly effective in preventing the region’s regular and deadly epidemics of meningitis A.

The hot, dusty wind should not bring disease and social disruption anywhere, anymore.

Dr.Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO

Six countries

“If all of this works like we think it is going to work, then we are going to eliminate these epidemics. Stop. Period,” said Marc LaForce, Director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a joint project involving PATH and WHO which developed MenAfriVac in less than 10 years.

Between the first campaign in Burkina Faso, in 2010, and the end of 2012 Gavi supported the vaccination of more than 100m people in Africa with Meningitis A vaccine. By the end of 2013, 12 countries will have begun Meningitis A campaigns with Gavi support.

Gavi has budgeted US$ 370.4 million to help rid the "meningitis belt" of meningitis A. For its 2011-2015 programme, Gavi plans to support immunisation all 25 countries in the region.

The remainder of the US$ 571 million budget to eliminate group A meningitis in Africa will come mostly from the countries themselves.

Meningitis epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa are ever more frequent and extending southwards. Existing vaccines are not very effective


Meningitis, an infection of the lining that covers the brain and spinal cord, has a variety of different causes, the most frequent being either viral or bacterial, one of which is meningococcus.

Five main meningococcal groups have been identified – A, B, C, W135, and Y.

In Africa, group A predominates, causing roughly 85% of observed meningococcal meningitis there.

"Meningitis belt"

Every year, meningitis epidemics hit Africa’s so-called “meningitis belt”, a region of 25 sub-Saharan countries that stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia with a total population of about 500 million people. And every eight to 12 years, the region is hit by a major epidemic.

Experts say this interval may be getting shorter and the meningitis belt may be extending southwards.

Groups at highest risk of infection are infants, children, and young adults. In 1996/97, the worst recent epidemic hit 250,000 people, of whom 25,000 died and 50,000 were left with some kind of disability ranging from deafness and mental retardation to paralysis or limb infection that required an amputation.

Existing vaccines have not been very effective. They protect for just three years, do not confer herd immunity, and cannot be used in children under two years old.

Social and economic impact

The disease also has a significant social and economic impact.

A study conducted in Burkina Faso during 2006/2007 found that households spent US$ 90 per meningitis case – equal to about 34% (or four months’ worth) of the average household income. When sequelae occurred, the figure went up to as much as US$ 154.

In addition, many people are afraid either to socialise or to work during a meningitis epidemic for fear of catching the disease.

Epidemics spread during the dry season from November through June, helped by overcrowded living conditions and mobile populations (pilgrimages, regional markets).

Available in the region for more than 30 years, existing vaccines have not been very effective. They protect for just three years, do not confer herd immunity, and cannot be used in children under two years old. They are used for epidemic response, not for routine immunisation.

Gavi has collaborated with the Meningitis Vaccine Project to deliver an affordable vaccine against meningitis A in less than 10 years 

Gavi support available for catch-up and routine immunisation, epidemic response, other activities

Meningitis Vaccine Project

Gavi is delighted to work with its partners in WHO, UNICEF, PATH, and the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a collaboration between WHO and PATH that developed the new MenAfriVac vaccine in less than ten years.

History of MenAfriVac

The MenAfriVac vaccine represents the culmination of 10 years work. In 2001, WHO and PATH, a non-profit body based in Seattle (USA), founded the Meningitis Vaccine Project with core funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Its mission: to develop a vaccine at a price low enough (US$0.40 a dose) to ensure widspread use in Africa so epidemics like the 1996-97 outbreak, which caused 250,000 cases and 25,000 deaths, would never happen again.

Commercial manufacturers in industrialised countries could not produce the vaccine at such a low target price, so the consortium carried out the research itself and contracted the Serum Institute of India in Pune to make the vaccine. The entire research and development cost of the project was five to 10 times less than typical vaccines.

Begun in 2001 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Meningitis Vaccine Project was tasked with developing an affordable vaccine for Africa’s meningitis belt.

“Please don’t give us a vaccine that we can’t afford,” an official from Niger told MVP’s Director, Marc LaForce. “That’s worse than no vaccine.”

Burkina Faso

Ten years later, Burkina Faso celebrated the first immunisation against meningitis A with the new vaccine, MenAfriVac. Six countries are now receiving Gavi support with purchase of the vaccine and its roll-out – Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, and the northern states of Nigeria.

Gavi funding support

Gavi’s funding includes three components:

  1. the introduction of MenAfriVac for both catch-up and routine immunisation;
  2. epidemic response, including the stockpile of vaccines;
  3. other activities such as capacity building, surveillance, and impact assessment.
  4. Gavi will provide US$ 0.30 per capita for the target population to cover operational costs of catch-up campaigns -- equivalent to approximately 50% of the total cost. The support is provided in cash through WHO and UNICEF;
  5. Countries are expected to meet the remaining half of the operational expenses, although no co-financing of the vaccine is required for campaign support;

3.9 million

The Vaccine Alliance’s support for vaccines will contribute to averting an estimated 3.9 million future deaths between 2011 and 2015.


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