Nigeria faces shortage of meningitis vaccine as epidemic spreads

A new strand of the disease has emerged, for which vaccine is not available commercially 

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 31 March 2017

The disease outbreak has led to 282 deaths in the country

Nigeria is facing a shortage of vaccine to contain an outbreak of meningitis which has led to 282 deaths in the country. Up to 1,966 cases of cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) have been reported and the disease has reached epidemic proportions in five States—Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Niger. Cases of CSM were first reported in late 2016.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) cited the emergence of new meningitis strand called “stereotype C” as the reason for the deficit of vaccine. The previous known type of strand has “stereotype A” disappeared.

“Vaccines that provide protection to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C (NmC) are not commercially available and need to be acquired through a special process managed by WHO,” said NCDC.

The emergence of a new strand has been called a part of phenomenon called serotype replacement—an increase in the cases and outbreaks caused by other meningitidis serogroups such as W, X, and C.

The chief executive officer of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said, “We understand meningitis peaks every year in the dry season in certain states and we must work better with these States to prevent the unnecessary loss of lives. We must work collectively to stop this outbreak and prevent outbreaks of this scale in the future.”

“The National Primary Health Care Development Agency is working closely with WHO to ensure that we get access to vaccines needed to respond to the outbreak and prevent further cases. It added that UNICEF is currently supporting affected states to scale up social mobilisation through grassroots engagement,” said disease control centre.

Neisseria meningitidis can be carried in the throat and sometimes, can affect the body's defences allowing infection to spread through the bloodstream to the brain. As per the NCDC, 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the country’s population carries Neisseria meningitidis in their throats at any given time but the carriage rate may be higher in epidemic situations.

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