Immunization and Vaccines Development
DRC vaccinates more than 10 million people in Africa’s largest yellow fever vaccination campaign
BRAZZAVILLE, 6 September 2016 – The largest emergency vaccination campaign against yellow fever ever attempted in Africa, came to an end on 5 September 2016 with more than 10.6 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) vaccinated against the lethal disease.
In just ten days, 7 807 653 people were vaccinated in the capital city of Kinshasa, most of them using an emergency vaccine – one fifth of the full dose of yellow fever vaccine. This dose-sparing strategy was recommended by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Vaccination (SAGE) as a short term emergency measure to reach as many people as possible given limited global vaccine supplies.
“WHO congratulates the DRC for successfully conducting this complex logistical emergency vaccination campaign in record time of 10 days including very hard to reach areas,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It was a race against time to provide vaccine protection to the people most at risk from yellow fever before the rainy season, especially in the densely populated capital of Kinshasa.”
As of 5 September 2016, a further 2 844 157 people in five provinces (Kasaï Central, Kasaï, Kongo Central, Kwango and Lualaba) bordering Angola were also vaccinated to halt transmission between the two affected countries.
WHO and partners played a key role in ensuring the availability of the required millions of vaccine doses, syringes and other materials, as well as maintaining the cold chain to ensure vaccines are stored and transported in the right conditions. Together with national health authorities and health partners, WHO led the coordination efforts during the planning and implementation phases of the campaign, trained and supervised health workers, and engaged with communities and leaders in disseminating information about the campaigns.
WHO also deployed some 100 experts in epidemiology, data management, vaccination, risk communications and community engagement, logistics, laboratory diagnostics and clinical case management to support the planning, implementation of the government-led response in some 8000 locations across DRC together with partners.
“Vaccination remains the key strategy to control the largely urban yellow fever outbreak in the DRC as it is the most effective protection against yellow fever,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “WHO remains committed to support the Ministry of Health for the planned campaign next year when people who received an emergency dose in Kinshasa will get full dose as soon as global vaccine supplies return to normal.”
Since 22 March 2016 when the country first notified WHO of yellow fever cases, DRC has reported 2513 suspected cases of which 75 have been laboratory confirmed and 16 deaths. No new confirmed cases have been reported in the country since 12 July 2016 and the downward trend of cases continues around the country.
Three sylvatic cases have been reported in the rural forests of Tshuapa Province. These cases are unrelated to the current outbreak. Sylvatic (or jungle) yellow fever is transmitted by monkeys and occasionally humans working or travelling in jungle areas are bitten by infected mosquitoes. This type of yellow fever is less likely to spread widely due to its remote, rural location. Yellow fever is endemic to DRC.
For further information and media enquiries, please contact:
Ebba Kalondo, Risk Communications Officer, at +243 991715425 or by email at kalondoe [at] who.int
Eugene Kabambi, Communications Officer, at +243 817 151 697 or by email at kabambie [at] who.int
Collins Boakye-Agyemang, Regional Communications Advisor, at +47 241 39420 or by email at boakyeagyemangc [at] who.int
Ministers pledge to improve access to vaccines at first-ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa
Addis Ababa, 25 February 2016 – With one in five African children lacking access to all needed and basic life-saving vaccines, ministers of health and other line ministers countries committed themselves to keep immunization at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality, morbidity and disability.
At a landmark Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa held from 24-25 February, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia the ministers signed a declaration to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against vaccine-preventable diseases and to close the immunization gap by 2020. The conference, which was hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in conjunction with the African Union Commission (AUC), was the first-ever ministerial-level gathering with a singular focus on ensuring that children across the continent can get access to life-saving vaccines.
“Our children are our most precious resource, yet one in five fail to receive all the immunizations they need to survive and thrive, leaving millions vulnerable to preventable disease,” H.E. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health for Ethiopia. “This is not acceptable. African children’s lives matter. We must work together to ensure the commitments we make in Addis Ababa translate into results.”
A new report issued at the conference paints a mixed picture on vaccine access, delivery systems and immunization equity in Africa. Routine immunization coverage has increased considerably across Africa since 2000, measles deaths declined by 86% between 2000 and 2014, and the introduction of new vaccines has been a major success. However, one in five children still do not receive all of the most basic vaccines they need, three critical diseases—measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus—remain endemic, and many countries have fragile health systems that leave immunization programs vulnerable to shocks.
Addis Ababa Declaration on Immunization to be presented to African Heads of State
In June 2016, His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the host country for the conference, will present the Addis Ababa Declaration on Immunization to the African Heads of States at the 26th Summit of the African Union. Support from heads of state will further empower countries to increase efforts to mobilize resources for national immunization programs.
The declaration commits countries to increasing domestic financial investments in order to deliver routine immunizations and roll out new vaccines. The economic benefits of immunization are proven to greatly outweigh the costs, with recent research showing the benefits of preventing illness and lost productivity to be 16 times greater than the required investment in vaccines.
“We all agree that vaccines are one of the most cost-effective solutions in global health. Investing in immunization programs will enable African countries to see an outstanding economic benefit,” said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Gavi Board and former Finance Minister of Nigeria. “If we can ensure that all African children can access life-saving vaccines, no matter where they are born, we will have a golden opportunity to create a more prosperous future for communities across our continent.”
As Ministerial Conference closes, new momentum builds for countries to prioritize immunization
The Ministerial Conference convened hundreds of political leaders, technical experts and advocates from across Africa and globally. The conference offered African policymakers and advocates a platform to celebrate progress toward expanding immunization coverage; discuss strategies for tackling the biggest challenges facing vaccine efforts; foster country ownership for sustainable financing for immunization; and advocate for greater engagement with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable demand for immunization.
“The Ministerial Conference achieved its goal of uniting leaders from across Africa behind the single goal of reaching every child with the vaccines they need,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Now, we will carry this momentum forward from Addis Ababa, stay accountable to our commitments and close the immunization gap once and for all.”
“With the right mix of political will, financial resources and technical acumen, Africa is positioned to make an incredible leap in immunization coverage,” said Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “Today is a first step in a journey that will take us to the last mile to reach every child with the vaccines they need.”
For additional information contact:
Regional Communications Adviser, WHO AFRO
E-mail: boakyeagyemangc [at] who.int
Senior Communication Officer, WHO EMRO
Email: sidanir [at] who.int
Senior Manager, Communications, Media Relations
Email: ftissandier [at] gavi.org
More information: Please visit the conference website www.immunizationinafrica2016.org. You can also follow conference developments on Twitter with @AfricaVaxConf and join the discussion using #MCIA16 and #vaccineswork.
Meningitis A nearly eliminated in Africa through vaccination, reaching more than 235 million people
Officials at Addis conference plan transition from mass campaigns to use in childhood immunization programs to prevent resurgence of deadly epidemics
ADDIS ABABA, 23 February 2016 - Global vaccine experts and officials from all 26 African “meningitis belt” countries have convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to celebrate one of Africa’s biggest public health achievements—the introduction of a vaccine, MenAfriVac®, designed, developed, and produced for use in Africa, that in five years of use has nearly eliminated serogroup A meningococcal disease from meningitis belt countries and is now being integrated into routine national immunization programs.
Cases of the deadly infectious disease went from over 250,000 during an outbreak in 1996 to just 80 confirmed cases in 2015 among countries that had not yet conducted mass immunization campaigns and among those unvaccinated, scientists at the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) Closure Conference reported.
At the same time, they announced that eight countries have applied for funding to start integrating this lifesaving vaccine into their national childhood immunization programs.
“Our great success against meningitis A is by no means permanent,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “To sustain the protection that has been afforded to date against meningitis A, all at-risk countries must finish conducting vaccination campaigns and begin incorporating the vaccine into routine childhood immunization programs.”
The MVP Closure Conference organized by WHO and the international global health nonprofit PATH, is taking place just before the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa. Responding to a call for help from African ministers of health after one of the worst epidemics of meningitis ever seen, WHO and PATH partnered to form MVP in 2001, which for over 14 years led the development, licensure, and introduction of a new vaccine against meningitis A.
In 2008, the Gavi Alliance approved support to immunize the at-risk population (aged 1 through 29 years) in the 26 meningitis belt countries with preventive campaigns. Since the first campaign, Gavi has disbursed US$367 million to meningitis A programs for campaigns and an emergency stockpile.
Now, however, the pioneering vaccine development project has ended, and MVP and partners are working with African government health officials to carefully plan for the next steps in the continued deployment of MenAfriVac®. A mathematical model determined that if no subsequent immunization program was implemented after the large one-off vaccination campaigns, countries could expect to see epidemics recur within 15 years.
To ensure continued protection for future generation, Gavi now offers financial support to countries to introduce the vaccine into their routine immunization schedules.
“We have achieved something truly historic with MenAfriVac®—creating an affordable, effective, tailor-made vaccine for Africa,” said Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH. “In another breakthrough, the vaccine does not require constant refrigeration and is the first vaccine to be authorized by WHO for use at ambient temperatures of up to 40°C (104°F) for up to four days.”
Vaccine introduction in meningitis belt countries
The vaccine was first introduced in Burkina Faso in late 2010. Since then, the WHO has reported that 16 of the 26 countries of the African meningitis belt, which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, have conducted initial mass vaccination campaigns to protect their people. As a result, more than 235 million children and young adults (1 through 29 years of age) have been immunized and meningitis A disease has disappeared in those areas.
“It’s clear that the rollout of the meningitis A vaccine has been a great success story in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “At UNICEF, we’ll continue to work with national authorities, health workers, and traditional and religious leaders so that vaccines remain well accepted and reach every community across the meningitis belt.”
Among the 10 countries that are yet to conduct full campaigns, six are ready to conduct their campaigns in 2016: either nationwide (Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, and South Sudan) or in high-risk areas (Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda). The remaining four countries are expected to conduct their mass campaigns in high-risk areas in 2016/17 (Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania).
“Meningitis A was a scourge across Africa’s meningitis belt for generations but today we can be proud that a safe, effective meningitis vaccine is protecting hundreds of millions of people from death and disability,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “But we must not be complacent. It is critical that at-risk countries begin introducing this vaccine into their routine schedules and ensuring every child is reached and protected.”
Eight countries have already applied for funding to include MenAfriVac® as part of their national childhood immunization programs in the year 2016 (Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan).
The remaining 18 meningitis belt countries are expected to apply for funding in the next couple of years, most likely as follows: Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Islamic Republic of Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, Togo (2016); Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania (2016/17, all 5 countries are likely to submit joint applications for both campaigns and routine); and Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, South Sudan, and Uganda (2017).
In the latest UNICEF tender, the vaccine intended for the childhood immunization programs now costs below US$0.50 per dose.
“The Meningitis Vaccine Project is one of the greatest success stories in public health”, said Dr. Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of the project. “The success of the project is a testament to the potential of public/private partnerships to develop vaccines that, when introduced, can have a major impact in solving public health problems.”
About meningitis A and MenAfriVac®
Epidemics of meningococcal A meningitis, which is a bacterial infection of the thin lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord, have swept across 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for a century, killing and disabling young people every year. The disease is highly feared on the continent; it can kill or cause severe brain damage in a person within hours. Epidemics usually start at the beginning of the calendar year when dry sands from the Sahara Desert begin blowing southward.
Before 2010, the epidemics were becoming more frequent and widespread throughout Africa, placing a great burden on individuals, families, and the health systems of the meningitis belt countries.
MenAfriVac®, which is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India Private Ltd., was introduced as an improvement over older polysaccharide vaccines, which can only be used after epidemics have started, do not protect the youngest children or infants, and provide only short-term protection. An added benefit is that MenAfriVac® also boosts protective immune responses to tetanus, a painful bacterial disease that can cause involuntary muscle tightening and spasms sometimes strong enough to fracture bones and even cause death. Reported neonatal cases of tetanus have fallen by 25 percent in countries that completed meningitis A campaigns in 1 through 29 year olds, according to a recently published study.
Targeting other strains of meningitis
In addition to maintaining the level of protection against meningitis A, public health experts at the MVP Closure Conference are also planning on tackling other disease-causing strains of meningococcal meningitis such as serogroups W, X, and C, which also cause epidemic outbreaks in the meningitis belt countries.
In July 2015, WHO sounded the alarm over insufficient stockpiles of vaccines—the older polysaccharide vaccines—as the threat of epidemics caused by serogroups W and C appeared to be increasing. Earlier, in the first months of 2015, meningitis C was identified as contributing to a meningitis outbreak in Niger and Nigeria.
Meningitis A was the main cause of epidemics in the meningitis belt until the introduction of MenAfriVac® in 2010. According to researchers, however, meningitis W was detected more frequently between 2010 and 2013, cases of meningitis C increased in number and geographically with rapid expansion between 2013 and 2015, and meningitis X continues to be confirmed.
“To rid the world of meningitis epidemics altogether, we need to go after all the major strains in one public health vaccine,” noted Adar Poonawalla, CEO and executive director of Serum Institute of India Private Ltd. “We are partnering with PATH on a pentavalent meningitis vaccine—targeting five meningitis strains, A, C, W, X, and Y—and will begin clinical trials this year.”
About the World Health Organization
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assessing health trends and improving global health security. Learn more at www.who.int.
PATH is the leader in global health innovation. An international nonprofit organization, PATH saves lives and improves health, especially among women and children. PATH accelerates innovation across five platforms—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations—that harness our entrepreneurial insight, scientific and public health expertise, and passion for health equity. By mobilizing partners around the world, PATH takes innovation to scale, working alongside countries primarily in Africa and Asia to tackle their greatest health needs. With these key partners, PATH delivers measurable results that disrupt the cycle of poor health. Learn more at www.path.org.