PATH said that MenAfriVac, a vaccine developed through the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) to protect against life-threatening meningococcal meningitis, received prequalification from the World Health Organization. The action clears the way for phased introduction of the vaccine in Africa later this year, PATH said. Dr. Christopher J. Elias, president and CEO of PATH, commented, “Prequalification is a major milestone for MenAfriVac and MVP. This partnership between PATH and WHO is a stellar example of our mission and strategy at work. Through nine years of collaboration with a range of partners, WHO and PATH have been able to bring this vaccine from idea to reality, and we’re poised now to deliver it to the people who need it most.” PATH described meningococcal meningitis as a bacterial infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord which is highly contagious and kills about one in ten people who get it. Even with treatment, as many as a quarter of survivors suffer permanent damage—most commonly hearing loss, mental retardation, or epilepsy. The infection causes repeated epidemics during the annual dry season in sub-Saharan Africa—a region known as “the meningitis belt.”
Dr. F. Marc LaForce, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, said, “At 40 cents a dose, it is a moral imperative to introduce the vaccine in meningitis belt countries, most of which are among the poorest countries in the world. It is everybody’s wish that the global health community and funding agencies will come forward to help introduce the first affordable conjugate vaccine that offers the hope to end 100 years of group A meningitis epidemics in Africa.” MenAfriVac is produced by the Serum Institute of India Ltd. (SIIL), which received marketing authorization for export and use of MenAfriVac in Africa earlier this year.