MenAfriVac, a new vaccine against Meningococcal Meningitis seroptype Nm A, is expected to prevent meningitis epidemics in Africa's "meningitis belt" of 25 countries that stretch from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east.
Hit by epidemics every few years, the meningitis belt accounts for 95 percent of the world's meningococcal meningitis disease burden.
The region's worst epidemic in recent times, the 1996 epidemic, hit more than 250,000 people in the region, killing 25,000 people and causing residual disability for 50,000 others.
Besides the death and disability though, meningitis epidemics have a profound socio-political significance too. Epidemics frighten people away from work and cost large amounts of money to handle.
Developed by the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a joint project of PATH and WHO, the vaccine was launched in Burkina Faso in November 2010. MenAfriVac costs less than 50 US cents per dose and is 95 percent effective.
The GAVI Alliance is paying the overwhelming majority of costs to roll the vaccine out. If fully funded, GAVI expects to see 236 million people vaccinated with MenAfriVac in all 25 countries of the meningitis belt.
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