Two years after the new MenAfriVac vaccine was first distributed, 100 million people will be given the vaccine. Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad are preparing to distribute the vaccine to 24 million people in the upcoming weeks, reaching 112 million people by the end of the year. A partnership between the World Health Organization, GAVI Alliance and PATH is to thank for this vast milestone in global health.
Meningitis often results in death within 24 to 48 hours by attacking the brain, causing inflammation in the lining of the brain and spine. Those who do survive have neurological damages for the rest of their lives. The disease has been known to wipe out a third of communities and leave poor families devastated with the loss of parents and financial contributors.
The MenAfriVac is affordable and was immediately made available for people around the world who desperately needed it. Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, called the quick distribution of the vaccine, “nothing short of remarkable.”
Seasonal meningitis outbreaks annually affect those living in the ‘meningitis belt,’ an area of 26 countries ranging from Gambia to Eritrea. Chris Elias, president of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is proud of the vaccine saying, “The development of MenAfriVac® as a low-cost vaccine was critically important for the global health community. Vaccines work to save and improve lives and the speed with which the governments in meningitis-affected countries have introduced this new vaccine to protect young people is exemplary.”
The vaccine also means a reduced burden on health facilities in developing countries and allows healthcare providers to focus resources on other deadly diseases, like HIV/AIDS and malaria. In addition to Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon, MenAfriVac is available in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Sudan, Ghana, Benin and Senegal.
– Mary Penn