Abuja, 12 August, 2018 - Nigeria has introduced the Meningitis A Conjugate Vaccine into the routine Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) schedule.
Speaking during the flag-off ceremony at the Area 2 Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) on 09 August, 2019, the Executive Director (ED) of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib said, "Men A remains a major global challenge." According to the ED,"25 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) fall within the meningitis belt; putting 26.7 Nigerians at risk of meningitis".
Further describing the prevalence of the disease in the country, he said, "In 2018, there were 4,516 reported cases in Nigeria, 318 serious cases and 364 deaths. I therefore call on all mothers to ensure their children are vaccinated from this disease."
Meningococcal meningitis is the bacterial form of meningitis; a devastating disease associated with high fatality (up to 50% when untreated) and high frequency (more than 10%) of severe complications. Over 10,000 cases of meningitis occur annually in Nigeria; in 2017 alone, 14,766 cases were reported with 1,207 deaths. Vaccines are however available for prevention and control of meningitis outbreaks.
"Meningitis has been a scourge across Africa's meningitis belt for generations, however this vaccine has made a massive difference in bringing this disease under control," said Anuradha Gupta, Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. "This further expansion in Nigeria's immunization programme has the potential to save hundreds of lives every year across Nigeria and shows the government's commitment to protecting every child in the country against deadly, preventable diseases."
The meningococcal A conjugate vaccine for Nigeria, procured with funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is part of its wider commitment to boosting Nigeria's low immunization coverage and to stem further fatalities arising from the vaccine preventable disease.
In his remarks at the flag off ceremony, WHO Officer in Charge (OiC) for Nigeria, Dr Clement Peter congratulated the Government of Nigeria for the important milestone of the introduction of Meningitis A vaccine, which is in line with WHO recommendations.
"The vaccine is safe and effective and will protect Nigerian children from a dreadful disease. I seize this opportunity to encourage parents and caregivers to visit health facilities and outreach sites to have their children vaccinated. No child should be denied the opportunity to receive lifesaving vaccines for a healthy and productive future, to build a thriving nation," he affirmed.
In their separate goodwill messages, representatives of Permanent Secretaries of FCT and Federal Ministry of Health, as well His Royal Highness, Alhaji Idris Musa, the paramount traditional ruler of FCT, pleaded with community members to benefit from immunization services and admonished health workers to treat caregivers respectfully and build enduring relationships with the communities they serve to ensure smooth delivery of laudable programmes.
They all appreciated the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners for being on ground to support vaccination activities at points of delivery.
Other partners at the epoch-making event included UNICEF, AFENET, USAID, Red Cross Society of Nigeria and Vaccine Network for Disease Control.
Meningitis is an infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord called the meninges. Viral and bacterial infections are the most common cause but bacterial meningitis is much more serious due to its rapid onset and poses a significant risk of death. Meningitis A vaccine targets type A meningitis and WHO is committed to work with the government to switch to the Meningitis A,C,W,X,Y formulation in a few years' when the vaccine is available in the quantities required to ensure protection from all other strains of the disease is achieved.
WHO emphasizes the importance of completing mass vaccination campaigns in individuals aged 01-29 years old in all high risk countries followed by introduction of meningococcal A conjugate vaccine into the routine childhood programme within 01-05 years following the campaign completion.
WHO also recommends a one-time catch up campaign for children born after the initial mass vaccination and who would not be in the age range targeted by the routine immunization programme.
Dr Richard Banda; Email: Bandari [at] who.int; Tel: +234 803 888 8269