Nigeria, four others at high risk of meningitis epidemic

• Study finds malaria vaccine 80% effective in trials

Nigeria, Benin, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Togo are at heightened risk of meningitis type A outbreaks, which has nearly been eliminated on the continent.

Also, the COVID-19 pandemic is delaying meningitis vaccination campaigns for more than 50 million children in the region.

Regional Director for Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, disclosed this, during a virtual press briefing yesterday.

He said the pandemic severely disrupted meningitis prevention and control services, with disease surveillance, laboratory confirmation of cases and outbreak investigations all steeply declining.

“Based on reports from countries, WHO found that meningitis control activities were reduced by 50 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019, with a slight improvement in 2021.

“Benin, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria and Togo delayed campaigns with the MenAfriVac vaccine aimed at protecting a total of 50 million children under 12 years of age against meningitis type A,” Moeti said.

To address the situation and in a race against time, WHO and partners have launched a roadmap aimed at stopping bacterial meningitis outbreaks by 2030, urging countries to implement it rapidly before the start of the meningitis season in January 2023.

FEDERAL Government has expressed support for the $18 billion Global Fund target aimed at saving 20 million lives and reducing HIV, TB and Malaria mortality by 65 per cent.

It has also committed over $38.29 million to the fund and has consistently received the highest investment portfolio, since inception of the fund in 2002.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who disclosed this, yesterday, at the pre-conference meeting on the Global Funds’ Seventh Replenishment in Abuja, said the target, if realised, will get the world back on track towards ending HIV, TB and Malaria, especially in the most affected countries.

Ehanire, who was represented by Minister of State for Health, Ekumankama Joseph Nkama, said the Seventh Replenishment is an opportunity to address persistent inequities and inequalities in access to service, and build a sustainable and resilient health system to ensure no one is left behind.

ALSO, data from a mid-stage study on more than 400 young children, who received a fourth dose of the malaria vaccine from Oxford University, after the primary three-dose regimen, showed the jab was 80 per cent effective.

The study on the Oxford’s vaccine, called ‘R21/Matrix-M’, was published, yesterday, in the Lancet journal.

According to the study, vaccine effectiveness was 80 per cent in the group that received a higher dose of the immune-boosting adjuvant component of the vaccine, and 70 per cent in the lower-dose adjuvant group, at 12 months following the fourth dose. The doses were administered ahead of the peak malaria season in Burkina Faso.

However, RTS,S/AS01 (trade name Mosquirix) was the first malaria vaccine candidate to be endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for “broad use” in children to address parasitic infection.

The researchers said R21/Matrix-M is likely more effective than Mosquirix in preventing the disease that kills about 600,000 a year despite roughly $3 billion spent yearly on insecticides, bed nets and anti-malarial drugs.

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