NIGER —The World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with other technical and financial partners, has announced the initiation of a meningitis vaccination program in Niamey, as part of efforts to minimize the disease’s spread.

This follows an increase in instances in April 2024 where Niger reported a total of 2012 cases of meningitis with 123 deaths, reflecting a case-fatality rate of 6.1%, compared to the same period last year when 1,389 cases were recorded with 72 deaths (case-fatality rate: 5.2%).

The Niamey region is the most affected with a cumulative attack rate of 52.2 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Agadez (11.5 cases per 100,000 people), Zinder (6.4 cases per 100,000 people), and Dosso (6.4).

This is the sixth week in a row that Niamey I health area is experiencing this epidemic, with an attack rate of 12.8 cases per 100,000 residents.

Eight other health districts have exceeded the alert level of three cases per 100,000 residents.

Niger is one of the 26 ‘hyperendemic’ African countries for meningitis, with a 50% increase in cases compared to the previous year.

With this vaccination launch, Niger becomes the second country in the region to implement a series of interventions, including case management and resource mobilization to plan a vaccination campaign.

This is comparable to Nigeria, which became the first country in the world to utilize Men5CV, a novel vaccine approved by the WHO to protect against five strains of Meningococcus bacteria (A, C, W, Y, and X), in early April.

At the time of the distribution in Nigeria of the Men5CV vaccine, meningitis bacteria strain serogroup C had caused 1742 suspected meningitis cases, 101 confirmed cases, and 153 fatalities in seven of the country’s 36 states, necessitating the spread.

Unlike previous vaccines, Men5CV is a single dosage that protects against five strains which are the leading causes of meningitis in Niger.

With this vaccination drive underway, the WHO is giving assistance with case management by making drugs and inputs available through mobilization of vaccines and incurring operational costs through a request made to the International Coordinating Group on Immunization. 

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