Nigeria Leads In Men5CV Vaccine Rollout

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 18, 2024

Nigeria has achieved a significant milestone in global health by becoming the first nation to implement the Men5CV vaccine, endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat meningitis. This marks a crucial step forward in safeguarding populations against this deadly disease, particularly in regions like Nigeria, which are disproportionately affected.

Meningitis poses a severe threat in Africa, with Nigeria identified as a hotspot for the illness. Recent reports from the WHO have highlighted a concerning 50% increase in annual cases across 26 African countries classified as hyperendemic for meningitis. Within Nigeria itself, between October of last year and mid-March of this year, there were 1,742 suspected cases of meningitis, resulting in 153 fatalities across seven states, according to WHO data.

The Men5CV vaccine stands out for its ability to protect against five strains of the Meningococcus bacteria, offering a comprehensive defense against the disease. The WHO has lauded Nigeria’s adoption of this vaccine as historic, recognizing the country’s proactive approach to public health.

In response to this critical development, health workers are set to embark on an extensive immunization campaign, aiming to reach one million individuals across the nation. This concerted effort reflects Nigeria’s commitment to ensuring widespread access to life-saving vaccinations, ultimately safeguarding the health and well-being of its population.

The announcement further emphasized that both the procurement of the vaccine and the urgent vaccination initiatives are made possible through funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi plays a crucial role in financing the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and providing support to lower-income countries for routine meningitis vaccination efforts.

Highlighting Nigeria’s position within the African Meningitis Belt, the WHO reiterated that Nigeria is among the 26 nations in Africa categorized as hyperendemic for meningitis. The year 2023 witnessed a stark 50% increase in reported annual cases of meningitis across the continent.

The gravity of the situation in Nigeria was underscored by an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C, resulting in 1,742 suspected cases of meningitis, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 fatalities in seven states between October 2023 and March 2024. These states, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, and Zamfara, were significantly impacted by the outbreak.

In response to this dire scenario, a vigorous vaccination campaign was launched from March 25 to 28, 2024, targeting an initial demographic of over one million individuals aged 1 to 29 years.

The statement further emphasized the severity of meningitis, describing it as a grave infection leading to inflammation of the meninges, the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This succinctly illustrates the critical importance of swift and comprehensive vaccination efforts in curbing the spread and impact of this potentially deadly disease.

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, emphasized the historical significance of Nigeria’s introduction of the new meningitis vaccine, characterizing meningitis as a longstanding and formidable adversary. He expressed optimism regarding the transformative potential of the new vaccine, asserting that it could alter the course of the disease, thwarting future outbreaks and saving countless lives.

Ghebreyesus highlighted Nigeria’s pivotal role in advancing the global objective of eradicating meningitis by 2030, viewing the country’s vaccine rollout as a significant stride toward achieving this ambitious goal.

He underscored the groundbreaking nature of the new vaccine, which provides robust protection against the five major strains of meningococcal bacteria – A, C, W, Y, and X – with a single dose. These strains are responsible for causing both meningitis and blood poisoning, making comprehensive protection imperative.

Comparing the new vaccine to its predecessor widely used across Africa, Ghebreyesus noted its superior efficacy, offering broader protection against multiple strains as opposed to the previous vaccine, which primarily targeted the A strain. This advancement holds the promise of substantially reducing meningitis cases and advancing the global campaign against the disease, particularly in regions like Nigeria where various serogroups are prevalent.

Furthermore, Ghebreyesus drew parallels between the new vaccine and its predecessor, highlighting their shared technology. He referenced the success of the meningitis A conjugate vaccine in eradicating meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria, illustrating the potential of the new vaccine to replicate and even surpass this achievement in combating multiple serogroups of the disease.

In essence, Ghebreyesus’s remarks underscored the transformative impact of the new vaccine, offering hope for a future free from the devastating toll of meningitis, particularly in regions disproportionately affected by the disease like Nigeria.

The minister highlighted the arduous journey spanning 13 years that culminated in the development of the new multivalent conjugate vaccine. This remarkable achievement was made possible through a collaborative effort between PATH and the Serum Institute of India. He emphasized the indispensable role played by financing from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in facilitating the vaccine’s development.

The official also shed light on the regulatory milestones achieved by the new Men5CV vaccine, noting its prequalification by the WHO in July 2023 and the subsequent official recommendation issued to countries to adopt the vaccine in October of the same year.

Furthermore, he underscored the pivotal role of Gavi in allocating resources for the rollout of the Men5CV vaccine, with provisions made in December 2023. These resources are earmarked for outbreak response and are accessible through the emergency stockpile managed by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on vaccine provision.

Looking ahead, the minister outlined the anticipated timeline for the rollout of the vaccine, indicating that mass preventive campaigns are slated to commence in 2025 across countries within the Meningitis Belt.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell, the UK Minister for Development and Africa, echoed the sentiments of the minister, emphasizing the life-saving potential of the vaccine rollout. He emphasized its role in preventing long-term illness and advancing the overarching goal of defeating meningitis globally by 2030. This collective effort underscores the commitment of stakeholders to combating meningitis and highlights the importance of international collaboration in addressing global health challenges.


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