Emergencies preparedness, response

International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control

meningitis vaccination
Vaccination in Zorgho district, Burkina Faso, 2003

Following the outbreaks of meningitis in 1995-96 in Africa, the ICG was established in January 1997 to coordinate the best use of the limited amount of vaccine available; to ensure that the meningitis vaccine was used where it was needed most; and to avoid wastage.

It is composed of representatives from four organizations: Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and WHO. Additional expertise and technical advice is provided by a range of partners including the Agence de Médecine Preventive in Paris, Epicentre in Paris and three WHO Collaborating Centres on Meningococci in Oslo, Marseille, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, United States. Vaccine manufacturers, vaccine equipment providers and financial donor institutions are also engaged in the ICG operations.

The objectives of the ICG are:

  • to ensure the availability and rational distribution of emergency supplies of meningococcal vaccine to countries experiencing epidemic meningococcal meningitis
  • to ensure timely availability of vaccine in countries experiencing epidemics;
  • to coordinate international efforts in preparing for, and responding to, epidemic meningitis.

How it works

ICG operations include the management of security stocks of vaccines, injection materials and the antibiotic treatment for use in epidemic emergencies. Working closely with vaccine producers and following regional epidemiological trends, the ICG monitors its security stock levels to ensure they are sufficient to respond to meningitis outbreaks for each epidemic season. To date, close to 55 million doses of meningococcal vaccine have been channelled through the ICG mechanism. For 2011, the ICG has secured 12,4 million doses of meningococcal polysaccharides and conjugate vaccines.

Although established to deal primarily with the frequent and large scale epidemics of the African meningitis belt, the security stocks can be accessed by any country facing an epidemic anywhere in the world, and fulfilling the criteria agreed by the ICG for releasing the stock. Countries who would like to access ICG stocks must fill a standard application form and submit the request directly to the ICG Secretariat at WHO headquarters, or through one of the other ICG member agencies (IRFC, MSF, UNICEF) present in the country. Following a rapid consultation process to evaluate the request, the decision for the release of vaccines and other supplies is communicated to the country. Decisions are based on the epidemiological situation, pre-existing stocks in the country, intervention strategy, local coordination of the epidemic response and operational aspects of the response. Although originally set up to ensure vaccine availability, the ICG may also serve as a forum for technical discussions among all relevant partners, to improve cooperation and coordination of epidemic preparedness and response. Additional issues addressed by the ICG and its networks include the forecasting of epidemics, the evaluation of interventions, negotiation of vaccine prices, and the evaluation of standard protocols for case management.

Application forms and guidelines in English

Application forms and guidelines in French

Annual meetings reports

Contact information