Meningococcal Vaccines

A novel meningococcal A conjugate vaccine, MenAfriVacTM  was developed specifically for use in the African meningitis belt

There are two main types of vaccines to help protect against meningococcal disease: polysaccharide and conjugate. Both types of vaccines are useful in the African epidemiological context and are available globally.

Polysaccharide Meningococcal Vaccines

Polysaccharide meningococcal vaccines have existed for more than 30 years, are highly effective in preventing disease in older children and adults, and are often used in reactive mass vaccination campaigns in Africa. These vaccines are available in various combinations against serogroups A, C, W, and Y. However, polysaccharide meningococcal vaccines are not ideal for routine immunization programs due to several shortcomings:

  • Protection is not long-lived, only lasts 2 to 3 years.
  • Infants do not receive protection from this type of vaccine.
  • Carriage of the bacteria is not prevented and herd immunity (spread of bacteria is blocked, extending protection to the unvaccinated) is not induced.

Polysaccharide vaccines are typically used to control outbreaks or protect travelers going to countries affected by the disease. .

Conjugate Meningococcal Vaccines

Conjugate meningococcal vaccines are created by conjugating a protein, such as diphtheria or tetanus toxoid, to a polysaccharide antigen. These vaccines give better protection over a longer period of time, when compared to polysaccharide vaccines. This conjugation process has been used to develop several vaccines, including meningococcal serogroup C, Hib, and pneumococcal vaccines. Using the same conjugation technology, a polysaccharide-protein conjugate serogroup A vaccine was created specifically for use in Africa. Conjugate vaccines:

  • Protect very young children
  • Provide longer-lasting protection than polysaccharide vaccines
  • Decrease bacterial carriage and may induce herd immunity


The Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) was created to overcome obstacles in developing an affordable and effective meningitis vaccine for Africa. Since serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis is the pathogen responsible for most meningitis epidemics in the meningitis belt, MVP developed MenAfriVacTM, the first vaccine made specifically for Africa.

Find out more about MenAfriVac®. and the Meningitis Vaccine Project