Nigeria Becomes First Country Globally to Introduce Meningitis Vaccine

Nigeria marks a historic milestone by introducing the new 5-in-1 meningitis vaccine, Men5CV, endorsed by the WHO. The vaccine aims to combat five meningococcus strains, with the campaign targeting one million people following a recent outbreak that claimed numerous lives.

1 min read
Nigeria Becomes First Country Globally to Introduce Meningitis Vaccine

Nigeria marks a groundbreaking achievement as the first country to introduce a revolutionary 5-in-1 vaccine against meningitis (Men5CV) recommended by the World Health Organization. The Men5CV vaccine, funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, provides broad protection against five strains of the deadly meningococcus bacteria. Health workers are launching a massive immunization campaign aiming to reach one million people.

Meningitis is a severe infection that causes inflammation of the protective membranes (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Africa has the highest record of meningitis cases globally, with the region known as the “African meningitis belt” being particularly affected. The African meningitis belt extends from Senegal to Ethiopia and has an estimated 300 million people. The most affected countries in this region are Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, and Niger, accounting for 65% of all cases in Africa.

Meningitis epidemics in the African belt occur every 5-12 years, typically during the dry season from December to June. Attack rates can reach 100-800 per 100,000 people, with some communities seeing rates as high as 1,000 per 100,000. Between October 1, 2023, and March 11, 2024, Nigeria experienced an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C, resulting in 1,742 suspected cases of meningitis. Among these cases, 101 were confirmed, with fatalities totaling 153 across seven out of the nation’s 36 states.

To quell the deadly outbreak, a vaccination campaign was undertaken on 25–28 March 2024 to initially reach more than one million people aged 1-29 years. “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. Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate of the Nigerian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare expressed optimism about the vaccine’s impact: “This vaccine provides health workers with a new tool to both stop this outbreak but also put the country on a path to elimination.”

The Men5CV vaccine, developed through a partnership between PATH and the Serum Institute of India, offers broader protection than previous vaccines. “The promise of MenFive® lies not just in its immediate impact but in the countless lives it stands to protect in the years to come, moving us closer to a future free from the threat of this disease,” remarked Dr. Nanthalile Mugala, PATH’s Chief of Africa Region.

This achievement aligns with WHO’s global roadmap to defeating meningitis by 2030, which aims to eliminate bacterial meningitis epidemics and reduce cases of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50%.

Leave a Reply