In August 2017, the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia (MRCG) was designated a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for New Vaccines Surveillance (WHOCC NVS).
This designation was primarily in recognition of the contributions of the Molecular Microbiology Group within the Vaccines and Immunity Theme at MRCG for the control of epidemic meningitis outbreaks in West Africa. The WHOCC NVS will serve as a link between MRCG’s and WHO’s strategic plans to save lives and improve health across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. All WHOCC NVS activities are jointly planned and implemented with the WHO. The Centre’s Director is Professor Martin Antonio who is also a technical advisor to the WHO on New Vaccines Surveillance and epidemic meningitis.
Since 2009, The Molecular Microbiology Group has served as the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory for Invasive Bacterial Diseases supporting more than 12 GAVI-eligible countries in Africa with 21 sentinel sites.
The WHOCC NVS provides technical orientation and support to the countries of the African Region to improve on national, regional and international surveillance of Invasive Bacterial Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (e.g. meningitis and pneumonia) in addition to contributing data to the WHO Global Invasive Bacterial Vaccine-Preventable Disease (IB-VPD) Surveillance Strategic Review thereby translating research output into practice. A key objective of the WHOCC is to promote national and regional networking and to conduct national and international training courses, workshops and seminars on vaccine preventable diseases in Africa.This is achieved through strong collaboration and capacity building with Ministries of Health in Africa.
There are 800 WHOCC worldwide; most of them based in institutions in Europe and US. In Africa, there are 25 WHOCC, 14 of which are located in South Africa. The WHOCC NVS in The Gambia is the first in The Gambia and one of six WHOCCs in West Africa. The designation as a WHO collaborating centre provides MRCG with enhanced visibility and recognition by national and international authorities, calling public attention to the global health issues on which MRCG works. It opens up improved opportunities for exchange of information and technical cooperation with other institutions in West Africa, in particular at the international level, and to mobilize additional and important resources from funding partners.