A campaign to vaccinate 27 million Ethiopians against Meningococcal Meningitis A was launched Sunday in target regions of the country. This second phase preventive campaign is targeting people aged between one and 29 years in 39 zones of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), Oromia and Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia, Africa

A Meningitis risk assessment conducted by WHO in 2012 determined the risk profile by region and, with support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Ethiopia launched large scale campaigns in three phases targeting all regions over a period of three years under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health. The first phase, conducted in October 2013, successfully reached 19 million people.

The largest burden of Meningitis occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa, known as the ‘Meningitis Belt’ that stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Neisseria meningitidis is recognized as the leading cause of Meningitis with sero-group A identified as the dominant cause of the disease.

Through the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a new Meningococcal A Conjugate vaccine, “MenAfriVac®”, has been developed for the African Region, to provide a preventive measure through mass vaccination campaigns. Meningococcal A Conjugate vaccine has the major advantage of providing longer and stronger protection, and rapidly inducing herd immunity even among children below two years. Vaccination campaigns have been conducted in several countries in the African region with remarkable outcome.

The MVP, a partnership between WHO and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), was created in 2001 with core funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to eliminate epidemic Meningitis as a public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A launching ceremony in SNNPR was held at the Regional Capital, Hawassa, officiated by the Regional Health Bureau, the Government Council, government sectors and a cross-section of stakeholders, including religious and community leaders and partners.

In Oromia Region, vaccination activities were kick-started in Bishoftu and Sebeta towns, Fine-Fine Zuria and Bale zones.

The Federal Ministry of Health and the respective regional health bureaus, with support from GAVI, WHO, UNICEF and other partners, coordinated the intensive preparations for the large-scale campaign that will be implemented over a ten-day period.