Two years ago, the first child bared her arm for a shot of a new vaccine to protect her against the devastating effects of meningitis A. This week, MenAfriVac® will reach a major milestone: 100 million protected so far. The vaccine was developed and delivered through a partnership between PATH and the World Health Organization, working as the Meningitis Vaccine Project. The remarkable success of MenAfriVac® is a highlight of PATH’s more than three decades of work. This week, its story of success is a fitting conclusion to our series on PATH milestones.
2001 to present
The health challenge: Deadly meningitis epidemics regularly sweep across the 26 countries of Africa’s “meningitis belt,” killing one in ten people who are sickened and leaving one-quarter of survivors debilitated. No Africa-specific meningococcal vaccines had been developed by multinational vaccine manufacturers, who have largely concentrated on developing products for developed-world markets.
What we did: In 2001, PATH and the World Health Organization partnered to create the Meningitis Vaccine Project. In 2010, the project launched a new vaccine called MenAfriVac®. The innovative vaccine-development model involved partners with expertise in technology, materials, and manufacturing located on four continents. An essential partner continues to be the Serum Institute of India Ltd. Struck by the goal of creating a vaccine that would address a huge need in the developing world, the company helped provide raw materials for MenAfriVac® and found a way to manufacture the vaccine at a low cost. MenAfriVac® was produced at one-tenth the cost of a typical new vaccine, and costs less than US$.50 a dose. It is the first time a vaccine has been designed specifically for Africa and the first vaccine ever introduced in Africa before reaching any other continent. It offers an affordable, long-term solution to this health threat.
Watch our video about the introduction of MenAfriVac®.
The result: As of December 2012, MenAfriVac® has been rolled out in ten countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, North Sudan, and Senegal. Vaccination campaigns will eventually provide a contiguous block of immunized populations across the heart of the meningitis belt, with the potential to eliminate the primary cause of the disease.
- Jolayne Houtz is the content manager at PATH.