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Nigeria Introduces Revolutionary Meningitis Vaccine, First in the World

Nigeria has made history by becoming the first country in the world to introduce a groundbreaking meningitis vaccine recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), marking a significant milestone in global healthcare.
The new meningitis vaccine (called Men5CV), offers comprehensive protection against the five major strains of meningococcal bacteria (A, C, W, Y, and X) in a single shot.
This advancement is particularly crucial for countries like Nigeria, where multiple serogroups of meningitis are prevalent, posing significant public health challenges.
The new vaccine uses the same technology as the meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac®), which wiped out meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria.
Funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the rollout of the Men5CV vaccine underscores international collaboration and commitment to combating meningitis and improving health outcomes in lower-income countries.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, hailed the introduction of the new vaccine as a transformative step in the fight against meningitis, emphasizing its potential to prevent future outbreaks and save countless lives.
“Meningitis is an old and deadly foe, but this new vaccine holds the potential to change the trajectory of the disease, preventing future outbreaks and saving many lives,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal to eliminate meningitis by 2030.”
“Northern Nigeria, particularly the states of Jigawa, Bauchi and Yobe were badly hit by the deadly outbreak of meningitis, and this vaccine provides health workers with a new tool to both stop this outbreak but also put the country on a path to elimination,” said Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate of the Nigerian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
“We’ve done a lot of work preparing health workers and the health system for the rollout of this new vaccine. We got invaluable support from our populations despite this fasting period and from our community leaders especially the Emir of Gumel in Jigawa state who personally launched the vaccination campaign in the state. We’ll be monitoring progress closely and hopefully expanding the immunization in the coming months and years to accelerate progress.”
In Nigeria, an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C outbreak led to 1742 suspected meningitis cases, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 deaths in seven of 36 Nigerian states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara) between 1 October 2023 and 11 March 2024.
To quell the deadly outbreak, a vaccination campaign has been undertaken on 25–28 March 2024 to initially reach more than one million people aged 1-29 years.
Nigeria is one of the 26 meningitis hyper-endemic countries of Africa, situated in the area known as the African Meningitis Belt. Last year, there was a 50% jump in annual meningitis cases reported across Africa.
Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate of the Nigerian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare emphasized the importance of the new vaccine in curbing meningitis outbreaks and advancing Nigeria’s progress towards disease elimination.
Pate highlighted the crucial role of community leaders and health workers in facilitating the successful rollout of the vaccination campaign.
The development of the Men5CV vaccine was the result of a 13-year partnership between PATH and the Serum Institute of India, with critical financing from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Meningitis is a serious infection that leads to the inflammation of the membranes (meninges) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
There are multiple causes of meningitis, including viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic pathogens. Symptoms often include headache, fever and stiff neck.
Bacterial meningitis is the most serious, can also result in septicaemia (blood poisoning), and can seriously disable or kill within 24 hours those that contract it.
Meningitis remains a serious public health concern, with bacterial meningitis posing a particularly grave threat due to its rapid onset and high mortality rate.
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