An international quartet of public health organisations says vaccine manufacturers must step up production of vaccine containing meningitis C by at least 5 million doses before January.

The quartet–World Health Organisation, Doctors Without Borders, United Nations Children’s Fund and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, all of which make up the International Coordinating Group for Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control – ICG–says Africa could be at a risk of large meningitis outbreak worsened by an acute shortage of meningitis C vaccine.

“Meningitis tends to hit Africa in cycles. Cases of meningitis C have been rising since 2013, first in Nigeria in 2013 and 2014, and then in Niger in 2015,” said Dr William Perea, Coordinator for Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit at WHO.

“We have to be ready for a much larger number of cases during the 2016 meningitis season.”

But manufacturers are yet to change production plans to meet a target of 5 million extra doses of vaccine by January 2016, said Dr Imran Mirza, health specialist at UNICEF’s programme division.

“We have had preliminary discussions with vaccine manufacturers and impressed upon them the need to produce a stockpile of 5 million doses of vaccine so as to be ready for flare-ups of the disease next year in Africa, but so far they haven’t yet revised their production plans to meet demand.”

“We have been working to reinforce detection and response systems, and are working to secure other sources of meningitis C vaccine in Cuba and Brazil, but the manufacturers have not yet submitted an application for WHO prequalification,” said Mr Alejandro Costa, ICG Secretariat.

“Until they do, we can only turn to those manufacturers who are already prequalified and have provided vaccine in the past. We need to get them to produce and provide vaccine, in the right quantity and at an affordable price.”

“In just the first 6 months of 2015, there have been 12,000 cases of meningitis C in Niger and Nigeria, and 800 deaths. At the same time, there has been a critical shortage of vaccine,” said Dr Myriam Henkens, International Medical Coordinator, MSF.

“The campaigns consequently were limited to the critically affected age groups and areas, and even so, had to be delayed until vaccine supply became available and we believe next year will be worse. We need vaccine manufacturers to plan production of multivalent vaccine now to allow sufficient lead time and capacity to meet this demand.”

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