25 health ministers of African countries affected every year by epidemics of meningitis will soon be able to count on an highly promising candidate vaccine in their plans to combat the disease.
According to the World Health Organisation, it will provide far greater immunity than the vaccine currently available. But its main strength lies in its ability to give people long-term immunity. This is essential to the success of any general meningitis prevention policy in Africa.
The polysaccharide vaccine used until now is only effective for a maximum period of 5 years which means that mass vaccination campaigns have to be repeated, making them extremely costly.
Another advantage is that immunity will be extended to unvaccinated individuals living with immunised relatives.
Support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the GAVI Alliance means that this conjugate vaccine will not be a direct burden on the finances of the countries concerned. Its cost will be similar to that of the current vaccine.
The vaccines are expected to be made available between 2009 and 2010 in Burkina Faso. In the second phase, between 2010 and 2015, it will be distributed to the 24 other countries in the “meningitis belt”.