Meningitis epidemics occur on a regular basis in Africa. Last year, there were more than 88,000 reported cases. In 1996-1997, during the largest reported epidemic, more than 250,000 cases were reported. Meningitis is highly contagious and approximately one in ten cases are fatal. Disability occurs in approximately one in five cases.
The vaccine that was previously available in Africa was a polysaccharide vaccine, which did not prevent transmission of the disease. Understanding that the current situation was dire, the Meningitis Vaccine Project was formed. With funding from various donors including The Gates Foundation and money raised in Africa, a vaccine that protects against the group A meningitis strain – responsible for more than eight out of ten infections in Africa – has been developed at a cost of less than $.50 (US) a dose. More funding is still needed to meet the goal of vaccinating 300 million people across 25 nations. However, the steps that have already been made are remarkable and represent a huge step forward in helping fight this dreadful disease.
Click on “Download PDF” to see the outline and Cause Map of the 1996-1997 meningitis epidemic and the timeline of the progress of the Meningitis Vaccine Project. To learn more, see the Meningitis Vaccine Project.