Nigeria has launched the new Men5CV vaccine, which offers protection against five strains of the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria (meningococcus) responsible for meningitis.

Nigeria becomes the first country globally to launch the vaccine, which is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Men5CV vaccine rollout is a significant advance in the fight against meningitis, as it provides broader protection than the previous vaccines.

It shields against the major strains A, C, W, Y and X of meningococcal bacteria in a single shot. Existing vaccines sold in Africa are only effective against strain A.

The introduction of Men5CV is particularly crucial for Nigeria, one of the 26 hyper-endemic countries in Africa, which recently experienced an outbreak leading to 1,742 suspected cases.

In response, a vaccination campaign was conducted in March 2024 to reach more than one million individuals aged from one to 29.

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The vaccine’s development, spanning 13 years, was a collaborative effort between PATH and the Serum Institute of India, with funding from the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

The Men5CV vaccine utilises the same technology as the MenAfriVac vaccine that has eradicated meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria.

In July 2023, the WHO prequalified the meningitis vaccine, branded as MenFive. It went on to issue a formal recommendation for its launch in October.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, provided funding for the vaccine and emergency vaccination activity, and allocated resources for the Men5CV rollout in December.

The vaccine is now available for outbreak response through the emergency stockpile managed by the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision.

Mass preventive campaigns involving the Men5CV vaccine rollout across sub-Saharan Africa’s ‘Meningitis Belt’ are expected to commence in 2025.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated: “Meningitis is an old and deadly foe, but this new vaccine holds the potential to change the trajectory of the disease, preventing future outbreaks and saving many lives.

“Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal to eliminate meningitis by 2030.”