The Meningitis Vaccine Project - frequently asked questions
What is the expected public health impact of this new vaccine?
If introduced in all 25 countries of the African meningitis belt, this vaccine is expected to eliminate the primary cause of epidemic meningitis, meningococcal A, from the entire region, with an estimated 150 000 young lives saved by 2015.
What advantages does MenAfriVac have over existing polysaccharide meningococcal vaccines currently used to combat epidemics in Africa?
Contrary to polysaccharide vaccines that are used currently to control epidemics after they have begun, the new conjugate vaccine will be offered to prevent epidemics. Key advantages of the new vaccine over existing polysaccharide vaccines are:
- it induces a higher and more sustainable immune response against the most prominent strain in the most affected age groups, from 1-29 years;
- it is expected to confer long-term protection not only for those who receive the vaccine, but on family members and others who would otherwise have been exposed to meningitis, given reduced transmission:
- it will be available at a lower price than other meningococcal vaccines, and significantly lower than other cutting-edge vaccines recently introduced in Africa; and
- it is expected to be particularly effective in protecting children under two years of age, who do not respond to conventional polysaccharide vaccines.
Will this vaccine protect against all types of meningococcal disease?
No, MenAfriVac will only protect again disease caused by the group A meningococcus—the main cause of meningitis epidemics in Africa, accounting for about 80 to 85 percent of all cases. Meningitis cases caused by other groups, such as W135, X and C, also occur. Vaccines for other groups are either not yet available (X) or far too expensive for African countries (C, W, or Y in various combinations). However, it is hoped that a combination of ongoing research and development efforts and tiered pricing will contribute to making these vaccines available to developing countries in the future.
How was the vaccine developed?
The new vaccine was developed through the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a product development partnership between WHO and PATH, an international non-profit organization. The project included transfer of technology for manufacture of the vaccine from CBER/FDA to the Serum Institute of India Ltd. The project was set up in 2001 with core funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The overall mission of the MVP is to eliminate meningitis as a public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa through the development, testing, introduction, and widespread use of conjugate meningococcal vaccines.
Clinical trials, beginning in 2005, have been carried out in the Gambia, Ghana, India, Mali and Senegal and have shown the vaccine to be safe and highly immunogenic.
How much will the vaccine cost?
The vaccine will be sold at less than 50US¢ per dose, a price low enough to promote widespread uptake throughout the affected region.