Officials from the International Coordinating Group for Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control (ICG) warned today of the risk of a large meningitis outbreak in Africa due to an acute shortage of meningitis C-containing vaccines.

meningitis epidemics
African meningitis Belt/CDC

The ICG ( International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO)) are calling on vaccine manufacturers to step up meningitis C-containing vaccine production by 5 million doses before the 2016 meningitis season starts in January.

“Meningitis tends to hit Africa in cycles. Cases of meningitis C have been rising since 2013, first in Nigeria in 2013 and 2014, and then in Niger in 2015. We have to be ready for a much larger number of cases during the 2016 meningitis season,” said Dr William Perea, Coordinator for Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit at WHO.

“We have had preliminary discussions with vaccine manufacturers and impressed upon them the need to produce a stockpile of 5 million doses of vaccine so as to be ready for flare-ups of the disease next year in Africa, but so far they haven’t yet revised their production plans to meet demand,” said Dr Imran Mirza, Helath Specialist, Program Division, UNICEF.

“In just the first six months of 2015, there have been 12,000 cases of meningitis C in Niger and Nigeria, and 800 deaths. At the same time, there has been a critical shortage of vaccine,” said Dr Myriam Henkens, International Medical Coordinator, MSF. “The campaigns consequently were limited to the critically affected age groups and areas, and even so, had to be delayed until vaccine supply became available and we believe next year will be worse. We need vaccine manufacturers to plan production of multivalent vaccine now to allow sufficient lead time and capacity to meet this demand.”

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