Meningococcal vaccines for Africa

Disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. The area stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia is designated the “meningitis belt” and includes the poorest countries of the world. This project aims to assess the ability of meningococcal vaccines to prevent meningitis epidemics in the region.

About the project

Strains belonging to capsular serogroup A N. meningitidis (MenA) have been the main cause of the devastating epidemics of meningitis occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, but there has been an increasing contribution of serogroups W and X strains with epidemic potential in the last two decades.

Protein-conjugated polysaccharide vaccines against serogroup A, C, W and Y meningococcal disease have been developed for the Western market, but the price of these products is prohibitive to their use by developing countries. To-date there is no commercial vaccine against MenX.

Through a public-private partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an affordable polysaccharide conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac) has been developed for preventive mass immunization against MenA in the meningitis belt. The vaccine was introduced in mass vaccination campaigns starting in 2010 and to-date more than 200 million individuals between 1 and 29 years of age have been vaccinated. Where MenAfriVac has been introduced, the number of reported MenA cases has decreased dramatically, but MenW and MenX strains remain a persistent problem. Thus, an affordable vaccine that can provide broad protection against all main serogroups causing meningococcal meningitis in Africa is highly needed.


The project aims to assess the ability of meningococcal vaccines to prevent meningitis epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa.


  1. To improve surveillance of meningococcal meningitis in Ethiopia as a prerequisite to vaccine implementation and contribute to capacity building for improved laboratory based diagnosis of bacterial meningitis
  2. To determine the mechanisms and the dynamics of meningococcal carriage clearance following vaccination with MenAfriVac and other conjugate vaccines
  3. To evaluate the safety and dose-response of a A+W OMV vaccine in a phase II clinical trial among healthy adults from Ethiopia
  4. To assess the mucosal antibody-mediated immunity generated by MenAfriVac and A+W OMV vaccines in relation to the serum immune response
  5. To explore the feasibility of an A+W OMV +X PS or X OMV vaccine


  • NFR (GlobVac program) grant no. 220829


  • the Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  • the Meningitis Vaccine Project
  • the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta, USA)
  • WHO
  • Finlay Institute in Cuba
  • the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
  • Ethiopian Public Health Institute (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).

Start - finish


Tags: Global South
Published Feb. 27, 2015 2:32 PM - Last modified May 31, 2016 3:03 PM