SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

WHO approves MenAfriVac meningitis vaccine for infants in Africa

The World Health Organization recently approved use of a new meningitis vaccine on infants after it was shown to be effective in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the four years since being introduced in Africa, MenAfriVac has paved the way for protecting millions more children at risk for meningitis.

“Initial mass vaccination campaigns with MenAfriVac have been highly effective in reducing the number of meningitis A cases,” Meningitis Vaccine Project Director Dr. Marie-Pierre Préziosi said. “But epidemics will return when rising numbers of unprotected newborns become a larger proportion of the total population over time. Now, with this decision, health officials will be able to ensure that population-wide protection is sustained by routinely immunizing infants.”

As a result of the WHO decision, the vaccine now meets international standards of quality, safety and efficacy, and is authorized to be given to children younger than 1 year old in Africa. The MenAfriVac vaccine previously only had been authorized for use in children and young adults ages 1-29.

Before the creation of MenAfriVac, people living in the meningitis belt (from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east) were regularly hit by meningitis A epidemics, including the one in 1996-97 that infected more than 250,000 people and killed over 25,000 in just a few months after the only existing vaccine proved to be insufficient.

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