A two-man delegation from the Africa Meningitis Vaccine Project (MenAfrivac) comprising Dr Momodou Harouna Djingarey, focal person of the project; and Rodrigue Barry, communications officer, are currently in the country on a three-day factfinding and advocacy mission. Both of them are based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Speaking to journalists at a press briefing held at the World Health Organisation Gambia office at Kotu, Dr Djingarey said their mission is in connection with the launching of the new meningitis vaccine in The Gambia. He explained that the target group for the mass vaccination campaign is between 1-29 years, and is expected to cover 70% of the population.
He said Meningoccocal meningitis is a bacterial form of Meningitis, a serious infection of the meningitis that affects the brain membrane and can cause brain damage. He added that the disease is fatal in 50% of untreated cases. According to him, the new Meningitis vaccine was developed in India and clinical trials, which started 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.
Djingarey revealed that the Meningitis vaccine will be launched in The Gambia and Ethiopia this year. He said the Gambia launch will be held in mid-November 2013. He explained that the new vaccine was developed through the Meningitis vaccine project, adding that a product development partnership between WHO and PATH was set up in 2001, with core funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
He further remarked that the overall mission of the Meningitis vaccine project is to eliminate Meningitis as a public health problem in sub-Saharan African through the development, testing, introduction and widespread use of conjugate Meningoccocal vaccine. Djingarey also revealed that during the course of their mission in The Gambia, they will also meet with officials of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and UNICEF, among other partners.