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WHO Hails Nigeria as World’s First Country to Introduce Men5CV Meningitis Vaccine

The World Health Organisation (WHO), has commended Nigeria as the first country in the world to roll out a new vaccine called Men5CV, which protects people against five strains of the meningococcus bacteria, otherwise known as meningitis.

Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms include headache, fever, and stiff neck, which are exacerbated by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other parasites.

Bacterial meningitis, the most serious form, can kill or disable a person within 24 hours of contacting it.

According to WHO, Nigeria is one of Africa’s 26 meningitis hyper-endemic countries. In 2023, WHO said that there was a 50 per cent jump in annual meningitis cases reported across Africa.

In Nigeria, 1,742 suspected meningitis cases, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 deaths, were logged in seven of 36 Nigerian states between 1 October 2023 and 11 March 2024. The seven states are Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara.

Meanwhile, the health agency noted that the new vaccine offered a powerful shield against the five major strains of the meningococcal bacteria (A, C, W, Y and X) in a single shot.

The WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said, “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. Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal to eliminate meningitis by 2030.”

The new vaccine is said to have the potential to significantly reduce meningitis cases and advance progress in defeating meningitis, especially in Nigeria, where multiple serogroups are prevalent.

The new vaccine uses the same technology as the meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac®), which wiped out meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria.

Commenting further, Nigeria’s Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Ali Pate, said, “Northern Nigeria, particularly the states of Jigawa, Bauchi, and Yobe, were badly hit by the deadly outbreak of meningitis, and this vaccine provides health workers with a new tool to both stop this outbreak and put the country on a path to elimination.”

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, funds the vaccine and emergency vaccination activities. It also funds the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and supports lower-income countries with routine vaccination against meningitis.

DIPLOMATIC DIARY has in several reports, has tracked the development of reported cases of meningitis and deaths in Nigeria both in 2022 and 2023.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) recently said that Nigeria recorded 190 meningitis-related deaths across 140 Local Government Areas between October 2022 and September 2023.



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