With the 2010-2011 epidemic season largely over, surveillance data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) show just four confirmed cases of meningitis A in Burkina Faso, the first country to introduce the vaccine nationwide. Three of the four cases occurred in individuals from neighbouring Togo who crossed the border for medical care, and the fourth case was a citizen of Burkina Faso who had not received the new vaccine. No confirmed cases were reported in Mali, while four cases were reported in Niger, all in unvaccinated individuals. While these initial data are extremely encouraging, continuing surveillance for cases of meningitis and robust systems for monitoring vaccination coverage will be crucial to confirm the impact of the vaccine as it is introduced across the meningitis belt.
Six months ago, the three West African countries were the first to introduce a revolutionary new vaccine, vaccinating nearly 20 million people in a massive immunization campaign. While Burkina Faso launched the vaccine nationwide, immunizing close to 100% of its target population, Mali and Niger opted for a phased approach, with campaigns in districts at highest risk conducted in late 2010 and the remainder to be conducted in late 2011.
"The huge expectations that we had for this vaccine are now being fulfilled," said Professor Adama Traoré, Minister of Health of Burkina Faso. "Our country has been suffering from repeated meningococcal A epidemics for several decades. Meningitis A cases are close to zero this year, which will enable us to divert resources to help combat other diseases and other types of epidemic."
The new conjugate vaccine has several advantages over older polysaccharide vaccines currently used to combat meningitis epidemics in Africa: it protects children as young as one; and it is expected to both protect from the disease for significantly longer than the vaccine now used to combat epidemics, and to reduce infection and transmission. For these reasons, it is expected to help health workers eliminate meningococcal A epidemics in the 25 countries of the African meningitis belt stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Vaccine monitoring activities conducted thus far show the vaccine to be safe and highly effective.
MEDICA.de; Source: Meningitis Vaccine Project