Noura 9 months, the first Sudanese child to receive Meningitis A vaccine as part of routine immunization. Credit: UNICEF/2016
Khartoum, 27 July 2016 - Children in Sudan are set to become the first in the Meningitis belt to benefit from the introduction of Meningitis A vaccine into a routine immunization programme. The vaccine, previously only used in immunization campaigns across Africa, will be administered to children as part of the country’s routine schedule.
Meningitis is a serious life-threatening infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis in Africa mainly occurs within the meningitis belt which stretches from Senegal and the Gambia in West Africa to Ethiopia in the East putting about 430 million people at risk. Sudan falls within the Meningitis belt and accounts for about 2 in every 100 cases (15%) according to WHO Global Disease Burden Data. Sudan with other countries in the Meningitis belt: Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria together account for seven out of every 10 cases (72%) of the infection. Sudan is also at high risk for a meningitis epidemic and has reported several meningitis outbreaks in the past.
About 720,000 under one year children in Sudan will this year be vaccinated against meningitis through the routine immunization system. A mini catch-up campaign will be conducted in September 2016 targeting 5.2 million 1-5 years old children born after the mass meningitis vaccination campaign carried out in 2012-2013 to further reduce the threat of meningitis in Sudan.
“The Federal Ministry of Health, is committed to the achievement of global health initiatives such as the Eradication of Polio, the elimination of measles and the elimination of neonatal tetanus. The ministry has also adopted the strategy to eliminate meningitis A disease. For us to be successful in this, we strongly encourage parents to vaccinate their children, take all measures to prevent infection and immediately report any cases to us.” says the Federal Minister of Health Bahar Idriss Abu Garda.
The Sudan Ministry of Health with funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are today introducing the Meningitis A Conjugate Vaccine (MenAfriVac) into the routine Expanded Programme on Immunization. The introduction of this vaccine (MenAfriVac) into the routine schedule represents a major step forward in Sudan’s efforts to improve the health of its children.
“This is a great milestone in our fight to reduce illness and death in children and ensure that all children have a fair chance at survival and development. The introduction of the Meningitis A vaccine is another strong opportunity to reach children everywhere in the country with cost-effective, high-impact life-saving interventions and strengthen the systems that delivers these services to the children of Sudan” says UNICEF Representative Abdullah Fadil.
Sudan has since 2001 with support from Gavi and partners in the health sector, introduced much needed new vaccines against childhood diseases, including hepatitis B, Hib (haemophilius influenza type b), rotavirus, pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV).
A comprehensive plan has been developed for the introduction of the new vaccine covering all components of Vaccination Strategy, Management, Monitoring and Evaluation and Financing.
"Meningitis epidemics in the African meningitis belt constitute an enormous public health burden. WHO is committed to supporting countries in eliminating meningococcal disease" says Dr. Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO Representative. “As the agency mandated for health; WHO and its partners under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health are supporting Sudan in eliminating meningitis and ensure that its efforts are coordinated to protect the children and future generation”
Post-Introduction Evaluation will be conducted by WHO, UNICEF and other partners. Lessons from the introduction of the Meningitis A vaccine in Sudan will guide other countries within the meningitis belt in Africa as they also develop strategies for introducing the vaccine in their routine immunization programmes.
"As the first Gavi-supported country to introduce the Meningitis A vaccine in the routine immunization schedule, Sudan is leading the way in the fight against the disease," says Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. "Thanks to this vaccine and mass immunization campaigns, the number of Meningitis A cases in sub-Saharan Africa has dramatically decreased. We must now incorporate the vaccine in the routine programme of all at-risk countries to sustain progress and protect all children. We commend Sudan for its leadership and for its high routine immunization coverage" he adds
WHO and UNICEF with Gavi, are committed to and share the strategic objective of the Sudan Ministry of Health of preventing illness, disabilities and deaths from vaccine preventable diseases.