Meningitis vaccine introduced in Africa's meningitis belt

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Statement by Helen Evans, interim Chief Executive Officer, GAVI Alliance

Ouagadougou, 6 December 2010 - For years and years, meningitis epidemics in the 25 countries of Africa's meningitis belt have caused death, disability and fear.

But the dream of a world without such epidemics is steadily becoming a reality. And the launch today of a cheap, effective vaccine is a huge step in that direction.

We at the GAVI Alliance are delighted to be playing the major role in financing the WHO / UNICEF strategy to make best use of this vaccine throughout the 25 countries of Africa's meningitis belt.

Helen Evans, Interim CEO, GAVI Alliance

The GAVI Alliance congratulates everybody involved in the development and introduction of this vaccine, MenAfriVac, including especially - the Meningitis Vaccine Project, PATH, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation , the Serum Institute, UNICEF and WHO.

I would also like to add my gratitude to the government of Burkina Faso for hosting this wonderful occasion and I wish them the best of luck with introducing this new vaccine.


We at the GAVI Alliance are delighted to be playing the major role in financing the WHO / UNICEF strategy to make best use of this vaccine throughout the 25 countries of Africa's meningitis belt.

Indeed, we have approved a US$ 370.4 million strategy to eliminate meningitis epidemics from the region. This strategy includes the introduction of MenAfriVac for both catch-up immunisation and routine immunisation, an epidemic stockpile, and capacity building within the countries.

So far, we have spent or committed US$ 84.7 million on this project, including US$ 55.2 million for a stockpile of medicines in case of epidemic, plus US$ 29.5 on the vaccine's introduction, including vaccines and operational costs, in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

Financing challenge

Having said that, we do face a financing challenge. Our total 2011 to 2015 programme for vaccine and immunization support is forecast to cost US$ 6.8 billion. With a pledging conference due in June next year, we must still raise another US$ 3.7 billion to fund all our programmes. If we do not close that gap, then we will have to make choices about which vaccines to prioritise.

At a time of economic challenges, donors and the public in donor countries are asking themselves what their support achieves. The ceremony here today highlights a success that will bring tangible results. This new vaccine is an example of how countries with international support and cooperation across the public and private sectors and civil society can make progress.

If we do close that gap, then we will of course fund the roll-out of MenAfriVac according to the WHO - UNICEF strategy, so that by 2015, some 236 million people in all 25 countries of the meningitis belt will have been vaccinated against meningitis A.

Next steps

With technical advice from WHO and UNICEF, the next step is for all GAVI-eligible countries to submit their applications for vaccines - including for this vaccine against meningitis A. The next round of reviews and decisions will be in mid-2011.

Many people within the GAVI Alliance, especially those who have worked in the meningitis belt, have horrible and very personal experiences of meningitis. They and everybody within the GAVI Alliance are deeply committed to eliminating meningitis epidemics from the region.

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