02:30am Friday 28 February 2020

Meningitis vaccine receives crucial approval

MenAfriVac™, a vaccine developed through the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) to protect against life-threatening meningococcal meningitis, today received prequalification from the World Health Organization (WHO). The action clears the way for phased introduction of the vaccine in Africa later this year.

“Prequalification is a major milestone for MenAfriVac™ and MVP. This partnership between PATH and WHO is a stellar example of our mission and strategy at work,” said Dr. Christopher J. Elias, president and CEO of PATH. “Through nine years of collaboration with a range of partners, WHO and PATH have been able to bring this vaccine from idea to reality, and we’re poised now to deliver it to the people who need it most.” 

Potential to end annual epidemics

A bacterial infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, meningococcal meningitis is highly contagious and kills about one in ten people who get it. Even with treatment, as many as a quarter of survivors suffer permanent damage—most commonly hearing loss, mental retardation, or epilepsy. The infection causes repeated epidemics during the annual dry season in sub-Saharan Africa—a region known as “the meningitis belt.”

“At 40 cents a dose, it is a moral imperative to introduce the vaccine in meningitis belt countries, most of which are among the poorest countries in the world,” said Dr. F. Marc LaForce, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project. “It is everybody’s wish that the global health community and funding agencies will come forward to help introduce the first affordable conjugate vaccine that offers the hope to end 100 years of group A meningitis epidemics in Africa.”

Clearing the way for vaccine

The WHO prequalification process guarantees that individual vaccines meet international standards of quality, safety, and efficacy. Prequalification is especially important to the distribution of vaccines because United Nations procurement agencies can only purchase vaccines that have undergone the rigorous review process.

MenAfriVac™ is produced by the Serum Institute of India Ltd. (SIIL), which received marketing authorization for export and use of MenAfriVac™ in Africa earlier this year.

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