WHO approves meningitis vaccine for infants

Karachi: The World Health Organization (WHO) has opened the door to routine immunization of infants in sub-Saharan Africa by approving for use an innovative and affordable vaccine that has all but rid the meningitis belt of a major cause of deadly epidemics.

According to a release from Geneva, in the four years since its introduction in Africa, MenAfriVac® has had an immediate and dramatic impact in breaking the cycle of meningitis A epidemics, leading the safe, effective technology to be approved by WHO through its prequalification process for use in infants, and paving the way for protecting millions more children at risk of the deadly disease. The announcement was made today by the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP)—a partnership between the global health nonprofit PATH and WHO—and Serum Institute of India Ltd (SIIL), which manufactures the MenAfriVac® vaccine.

“Initial mass vaccination campaigns with MenAfriVac® have been highly effective in reducing the number of meningitis A cases,” said Dr. Marie-Pierre Preziosi, director of MVP. “But epidemics will return when rising numbers of unprotected newborns become a larger proportion of the total population over time. Now, with this decision, health officials will be able to ensure that population-wide protection is sustained by routinely immunizing infants.”

The WHO decision means that the new, 5 µg 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. MenAfriVac® had previously been authorized for use in children and young adults, aged 1-29 years.

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