February 17, 2012 |

Meningitis vaccine reaches millions more in 2011

In sub-Saharan Africa’s “meningitis belt,” provisional results from the fall and winter vaccination campaign season are in. In the two vaccination campaign seasons since MenAfriVac™ became available, nearly 55 million people have received the vaccine designed especially to protect them against group A meningococcal meningitis.

Arriving regularly in epidemic waves, meningitis A threatens the lives and well-being of millions living in countries stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. In December 2010, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger became the first three countries to introduce a new vaccine developed by the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization. In late 2011, Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria joined in, reaching more than 21 million people—most aged 1 to 29 years old—with MenAfriVac™.

So far, no meningitis

So far, not a single case of meningitis A has been reported among the nearly 20 million people who received one dose of MenAfriVac™ in 2010. Studies are continuing in all six countries to assess the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Meanwhile, work is ongoing to prepare for the next vaccination campaign season, coming in late 2012. If support continues, plans are to eventually reach 320 million people with the vaccine, potentially making the “meningitis belt” a memory.

Farewell, and thank you

Smiling man in white shirt bends low to talk to crowd of young boys.
Marc LaForce, MVP director, and new friends during the 2010 vaccination campaign season. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Much of the credit for MVP’s success goes to Dr. F. Marc LaForce. As MVP’s director since 2001, Marc has spent the last decade building the intricate partnerships necessary to develop an effective, affordable vaccine for Africa and see it through introduction in six countries.

Marc is retiring from the project at the end of this month. We will miss his determination, his expertise, and his always generous good nature. Thank you, Marc, and bon voyage.

Global health quiz

On Tuesday, we asked what a “dipstick” has to do with testing blood supplies for HIV. In the 1990s, PATH was one of the first to develop a rapid, affordable dipstick test to detect antibodies to HIV-1 and HIV-2. The technology allowed small and medium-sized blood banks and public health laboratories in developing countries to test for HIV quickly and cost-effectively. It’s one of the milestones from our first 35 years. Check our blog on most Fridays for more milestones.

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