By: Dr. Orin Levine
03 December 2010
But bacterial meningitis does not have to continue to be a major health problem in Africa, or anywhere for that matter. The leading causes of bacterial meningitis — known as Hib, pneumococcus, and meningococcus — all have safe, effective vaccines. The most recent addition to this set is an inexpensive meningococcal conjugate vaccine against serogroup A meningitis that was born out of a partnership between the World Health Organization, Seattle-based PATH, and an India-based vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India.
The different names of the germs that cause meningitis can be confusing so one way I like to think about these different causes is this:
Hib is the most common cause of childhood meningitis;
Pneumococcus is the most severe cause of meningitis;
Meningococcus is the most common cause of epidemic meningitis.
So, in short, vaccines against all of them are needed to wipe out meningitis.
The single biggest obstacle to stamping out bacterial meningitis in Africa is the lack of funds to purchase these vaccines. There is also a need for better delivery systems in some areas, and improved disease surveillance everywhere — but these obstacles don’t really come into play if there is no money to buy the vaccines in the first place.