A new meningitis vaccine for Africa
As many as 450 million people are at risk from meningococcal A disease, the primary cause of epidemic meningitis across Africa. The disease kills thousands every year. Major group A epidemics occur every 7-14 years and are particularly devastating to children and young adults. The sickest patients typically die within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Of those who survive, 10 to 20 percent suffer brain damage, hearing loss or a learning disability.
In 2009, the seasonal epidemic of meningitis across a large swathe of sub-Saharan Africa was thought to have infected at least 88 000 people and to have killed more than 5000.
At the end of 2010, less than a decade after the Meningitis Vaccine Project (a partnership between WHO and PATH) was established, national health authorities in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, three of the worst-affected countries, are introducing a new meningococcal A conjugate vaccine, MenAfriVac. The vaccine promises to provide long-term protection, for children as young as one year, at a price affordable for Africa.
This photo feature tells the story of the new vaccine, highlighting the factors that made its development possible.