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Update on Africa's Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP)

06 April 2016

Report from CoMO President, Chris Head:

"From 22 to 24 Feb 2016 a meeting was convened by the WHO in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to update partners on the progress of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP). As President of CoMO, I was invited to attend.

The MVP was set up in 2001 to develop and introduce into 26 sub-Saharan countries in Africa (the Meningitis Belt) a conjugate vaccine against meningococcal meningitis type A, which for decades had been responsible for massive epidemics in the Belt.

MVP was principally a partnership between WHO, PATH, GAVI and the Gates Foundation, but a huge number of experts were also involved, including Prof James Stuart (CoMO Scientific Advisory Group member) and the Meningitis Research Foundation UK (CoMO member).

MVP has been a fantastic success. A new and specially designed vaccine was developed at a very low cost by the Serum Institute of India, and by the end of 2016 this will have been given to 285 million people in the Meningitis Belt. All the countries involved were heavily subsidised to acquire the vaccine, but nevertheless also developed their own health systems to deliver it to their entire populations.

As a result there are currently no epidemics of MenA, and carriage has been virtually eliminated. Other spin-offs include the development of a ‘controlled temperature’ supply chain which protects the vaccine without the need for constant refrigeration, a huge bonus in terms of cost-effectiveness and vaccine availability in hot countries.

The story does not end here, however. WHO and GAVI recommend that the 26 African countries now include MenA in their routine childhood vaccination schedules, in order to prevent the return of MenA and epidemics in the future. Following the MVP meeting there was a Ministerial Conference of the African Union, where the Ministers of Health pledged to invest in and develop their own in-country vaccination programmes. A key fact quoted several times was that $1 invested in vaccines led to a $16 pay-back in GDP.

Also, a new low-cost 5-valent vaccine against MenA, C, W, X and Y is being developed by the Serum Institute of India, which should be licensed by 2020. This will provide wider protection against all forms of meningococcal disease seen in Africa today.

CoMO congratulates the MVP on a fantastic achievement to date and supports the WHO in its recommendations for introducing MenA vaccines into the African Meningitis Belt’s National Immunisation Programmes in the immediate future, and for investing in a new 5-valent meningococcal conjugate vaccine when it becomes available after 2020."

To read the Official Ministerial Conference Report, please click here

To read the resulting Ministerial Declaration, please click here

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