MenAfriVac vaccinates 100 millionth person

The World Health Organization announced earlier this month that a resident of Africa's meningitis belt would receive the 100 millionth MenAfriVac meningitis vaccine.

The milestone took place in northern Nigeria during the country's second seasonal immunization campaign against meningitis A. The achievement comes two years after MenAfriVac was launched in Burkina Faso. Nine other countries have held vaccination campaigns since that time to protect residents between the ages of one and 29.

During the month of December, Nigeria planned to vaccinate 16 million people, Cameroon planned to vaccinate 5.5 million people and Chad planned to vaccinate 2.3 million people. By the end of 2012, the vaccine will have reached more than 112 million residents of the region.

The GAVI Alliance Partners' Forum recognized the major achievements on December 6 in Tanzania.

"When we began developing this vaccine, we knew how desperately it was needed, and we hoped it would quickly provide relief for the many people who dread sub-Saharan Africa's meningitis season," Steve Davis, the president and CEO of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, said. "We are so proud to see African countries quickly embrace this vaccine and to see that deadly and debilitating meningitis cases have virtually disappeared in the regions that have been vaccinated."

Meningitis A puts the lives of approximately 450 million people at risk in the meningitis belt, a stretch of 26 countries from Gambia to Eritrea. The disease leads to painful inflammation around the spine and brain and can be deadly within 24 to 48 hours. Survivors can face learning difficulties, amputated limbs and deafness.