The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has kicked off the meningitis vaccination campaign in the Banalia territory of the northeastern Tshopo province.
The area is considered an epicenter of the ongoing meningitis outbreak as it has reported 1,506 cases of meningitis, including 192 deaths.
Supported by several partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the campaign aims at vaccinating at least 150,000 people from 1 to 49 years of age in the Banalia health zone.
This vaccination campaign came into place after the DRC received 187,460 doses of vaccines against meningitis from international organizations, including the WHO.
“This vaccination campaign reaffirms our determination to save lives, prevent hospitalizations and reduce new infections,” said Dr Amedee Prosper Djiguimde, WHO’s representative in the DRC.
“We commend the government for prioritizing the rapid delivery of vaccines to all affected health areas in Banalia, so that those targeted can be vaccinated free of charge,” he added.
Meningitis is transmitted among people through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from infected people. Close and prolonged contact or living in close quarters with an infected person facilitates the spread of the disease.
More than 1.6 million people aged between 1 and 29 years were vaccinated in a massive campaign in 2016 in Tshopo, which lies in the so-called “African meningitis belt” that runs across the continent from Senegal to Ethiopia and comprises 26 countries.
Meningitis outbreaks occurred in several DRC provinces in the past. In 2009, an outbreak in Kisangani infected 214 people and caused 15 deaths, a case fatality ratio of 8 percent.
In November 2020, the World Health Assembly, the global health policy-setting body, approved a roadmap for a meningitis-free world by 2030, with three key objectives: elimination of bacterial meningitis, reduction of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50 percent and deaths by 70 percent, as well as reduction of disability and improvement of quality of life after meningitis.