Kenya on Friday unveiled meningitis vaccine as the debilitating bacterial disease threatens to break out in the country’s northern counties amid biting drought.
The new meningitis vaccine called “Nimenrix” was developed by Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical giant and will bolster efforts to eradicate the highly infectious disease that is rampant in Kenya and 26 other Sub-Saharan Countries.
Meningitis has so far killed nearly 300 people in Nigeria in the last few weeks. Experts say Nigeria has been hit by a new strain of the disease, which has no commercially available vaccine.
Deshnee Achary, the head of Pfizer Vaccines in the Anglophone region, said Kenya became the first country in the region to benefit from a meningitis vaccine that was developed after rigorous scientific research.
“Vaccination is a critical intervention in healthcare like clean water.
“The meningitis vaccine will therefore offer long-term immunity against the disease to high risk populations,” Achary said.
Kenya has recorded sporadic Meningitis outbreaks fuelled by droughts and displacement of populations in the northern frontier districts.
Achary noted that Kenya’s vulnerability to a meningitis outbreak remained higher in the light of escalating drought and influx of refugees from endemic and strife torn neighboring countries.
“Any meningitis outbreak in Africa coincides with drought hence the need for Kenyan authorities to take proactive measures like mass vaccination, hygiene education and intensive surveillance at border crossings,” said Achary.
She added that a partnership with the ministry of health will facilitate distribution of the Meningitis vaccine to the high risk counties.
The Nimenrix Meningitis vaccine that was approved by global regulatory agencies five years ago has proved to be an effective tool of containing the bacterial disease which impairs physical and neurological functions of patients.
Dr Ombeva Malande, Director of East African Centre for Vaccines and Immunisation said the Nimenrix vaccine has over 90 per cent efficacy and will embolden other clinical interventions to manage the disease.
“Vaccinating people suppresses the meningitis bacteria to ensure it does not develop to fatal stages. Available data indicates Nimemrix vaccine has met the threshold of safety and efficacy,” said Malande.
Kenya belongs to the Meningitis Belt that comprises 27 Sub-Saharan African countries.
The World Health Organisation contends that 1.2 million new cases of Meningitis leading to 135,000 deaths are reported annually across the globe.(Xinhua/NAN)