Gambia to introduce new meningitis vaccine mid-November
The Gambia will start in mid November implementing a new vaccine, called MenAfriVac, to eliminate the primary cause of the meningitis epidemic not only in the country but in the 25 countries of the African meningitis belt.Meningitis is an infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It is said to be among the world’s most dreaded infectious diseases and particularly devastating to children and young adults.
The vaccine, MenAfriVac, was developed through the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) which was established in 2001 through a US$70 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The MVP is aim at eliminating epidemic meningitis as a public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa through the development, testing, introduction and widespread use of conjugate meningococcal vaccine.
Speaking to journalists at the World Health Country Office in Gambia on Monday, Dr Mamoudou Harouna Djingarey of the Meningitis Vaccine Project said the project will be launched in The Gambia in mid November 2013.
He said the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare will take the lead in the implementation of the new vaccine project while the World Health Organization country office will be supporting from behind.
Dr Djingarey said MenAfriVac is the first vaccine designed specifically for Africa and developed by MVP through an innovative vaccine development model.
The conjugate vaccine has several advantage over the older polysaccharide vaccine currently used to combat meningitis epidemics in Africa.
MenAfriVac protects children as young as one and is expected to protect both from the disease for significantly longer than the vaccine now used to combat epidemics, and to reduce infection and transmission.
For these reason, it is expected to help health workers eliminate meningococcal A epidemics in the 25 countries of the African meningitis belt which stretch from Senegal in West Africa to Ethiopia in East Africa.
The vaccine is already in use in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, and monitoring activities conducted thus so far show the vaccine to be safe and highly effective.