World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved an Indian company to provide its vaccine against meningitis to eradicate the disease in sub-Saharan Africa. The MenAfriVac vaccine was developed Serum Institute of India Limited (SIIL), under a project of the global non-profit health organisation PATH and the WHO.
SIIL was contracted by the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) to produce the vaccine, which has finally been approved by the WHO for routine immunisation of infants in sub-Saharan Africa, and has been described by MVP officials as “an innovative and affordable vaccine that has all but rid the meningitis belt (in sub-Saharan Africa) of a major cause of deadly epidemics.”
Before the introduction of MenAfriVac, people living in countries of the African meningitis belt, which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, were regularly struck by meningitis epidemic, in which a sudden onset of symptoms could rapidly lead to death or permanent disability. The disease can be life-threatening because of the inflammation’s proximity to the brain and spinal cord. MenAfriVac was the first vaccine developed outside ‘traditional pharma’ and the only vaccine developed specifically for people in Africa.
The WHO decision means that the new, approved dose of the meningitis A vaccine meets international standards of quality, safety, and efficacy and can, therefore, be administered to children younger than one year of age in Africa•