A team from MRC Unit The Gambia’s (MRCG) Vaccines and Immunity Theme (VI) attended the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa meeting from 24th to 25th February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference attracted African leaders, including health and finance ministers, which made the conference a powerful platform for governments to demonstrate their commitment to expanding access to vaccines across the continent. The meeting brought together advocates, technical experts, policymakers, donors and journalists to examine how best to drive forward immunization across Africa, ensuring every child has access to the vaccines they need.
The meeting was also combined with a close out session for the Meningitis Vaccine project (MVP projects which was attended by Dr Olubukola Idoko, Clinical Coordinator, Dr Adebayo Akinsola former PI and Mustapha Darboe, Field/Data Co-ordinator. During the close out session, MRCG was presented with a certificate of appreciation for its dedicated efforts and commitment to the Meningitis Vaccine Project that ensured the control and near elimination of Group A meningococcal epidemics in sub Saharan Africa.
The Meningitis Vaccine Project was born from a partnership between WHO and Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001. The goal of the project was the elimination of epidemic meningitis caused by serogroup A in sub-Saharan Africa where it was posing a great public health crisis. This was to be done through development, testing and licensure of a conjugate meningococcal vaccine specifically designed for Africa.
Some initial trials for the vaccine and an antibody persistence trial were held at MRCG’s Basse Field Station. This included two safety and immunogenicity trials in one to 29 year old Gambians and later a study which investigated antibody persistence up to five years after initial vaccination with MenAfriVac; this was important in order to know how often the vaccine needs to be given. The definition of success for the Meningitis Vaccine Project is the near elimination of epidemic meningitis due to Niserria meningitides group A in sub-Saharan countries that introduce the meningococcal A conjugate vaccine. MRC Unit The Gambia supported the evaluation plan by assessing the impact of the introduction of MenAfriVac in The Gambia.
Thanks to the Meningitis Vaccine Project, more than 200 million people have now been vaccinated with the meningococcal A conjugate vaccine, MenAfriVac. Millions more are protected against meningitis A due to the induction of herd immunity. The mass vaccination campaign was launched first in Burkina, and soon after in Mali and Niger, in 2010. The vaccine was introduced in The Gambia 2 years ago resulting in almost complete national coverage in a mass vaccination campaign.
According to Dr Olubukola Idoko, Clinical Coordinator ‘This award is a clear testament to several years of dedicated service from a committed and enterprising team of staff ably led over the years by several senior investigators including Prof Richard. Adegbola, the late Dr Brown Okoko, Dr Adebayo Akinsola and Prof Beate Kampmann. It was a great pleasure to accept the award on behalf of a truly dynamic team and be recognised for our contributions to eliminating group A meningitis in this region of the world. Our work is not yet done and we look forward to future collaborations in improving health in our region and across the world.’
The WHO Vaccines session ended with a ceremonial signing of the Ministerial declaration, followed by short statements to formally close the conference from Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director; Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean; and Hon Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health, Ethiopia.
Meningitis Vaccine Project in MRCG http://www.mrc.gm/success-story-meningitis-vaccine-project/
The publication http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26553669