A new Group A meningococcal (Men A) conjugate vaccine, MenAfriVac™, was prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June 2010. Because Burkina Faso has repeatedly suffered meningitis epidemics due to Group A Neisseria meningitidis special efforts were made to conduct a country-wide campaign with the new vaccine in late 2010 and before the onset of the next epidemic meningococcal disease season beginning in January 2011. In the ensuing five months (July-November 2010) the following challenges were successfully managed: (1) doing a large safety study and registering the new vaccine in Burkina Faso; (2) developing a comprehensive communication plan; (3) strengthening the surveillance system with particular attention to improving the capacity for real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of spinal fluid specimens; (4) improving cold chain capacity and waste disposal; (5) developing and funding a sound campaign strategy; and (6) ensuring effective collaboration across all partners. Each of these issues required specific strategies that were managed through a WHO-led consortium that included all major partners (Ministry of Health/Burkina Faso, Serum Institute of India Ltd., UNICEF, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, Meningitis Vaccine Project, CDC/Atlanta, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health/Oslo). Biweekly teleconferences that were led by WHO ensured that problems were identified in a timely fashion. The new meningococcal A conjugate vaccine was introduced on December 6, 2010, in a national ceremony led by His Excellency Blaise Compaore, the President of Burkina Faso. The ensuing 10-day national campaign was hugely successful, and over 11.4 million Burkinabes between the ages of 1 and 29 years (100% of target population) were vaccinated. African national immunization programs are capable of achieving very high coverage for a vaccine desired by the public, introduced in a well-organized campaign, and supported at the highest political level. The Burkina Faso success augurs well for further rollout of the Men A conjugate vaccine in meningitis belt countries.
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