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Impact of Meningitis Epidemics in Africa

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Meningococcal disease has far-reaching health and economic effects on individuals, families, and the health system.

During the 2007 meningitis epidemic in Burkina Faso, a study found that each case of meningitis in a family resulted in a sudden expenditure of about US$90—an amount that is three or four months of a typical family's disposable income.1 This resulted in families with few resources cycling into the next level of poverty. Furthermore, approximately one out of every four survivors has long-term disabilities, such as deafness, leaving them less likely to be an economically productive citizen, often becoming wards of an already financially stretched extended family.

Meningitis epidemics create chaos in health systems. For example, from 1999 to 2003, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, the nine northern states of Nigeria, and Sudan purchased over 109 million doses of bivalent A/C meningococcal polysaccharide vaccines for reactive immunization campaigns, enough to vaccinate one-half of their at-risk population. Most reactive immunization campaigns, like these, are often done too late and take place after the epidemic wave has already passed. Such campaigns have little to no impact and are a financial drain on health systems and economies in meningitis belt countries.

In 2010, Burkina Faso was the first country to vaccinate its entire 1through 29-year-old population with the meningococcal A conjugate vaccine (MACV/PsA–TT; MenAfriVac™ Serum Institute of India, Ltd). In Burkina Faso from 2010 to 2014, researchers found that the total costs associated with the preventive vaccination campaign in 2010 were similar to the estimated costs of using a reactive vaccination strategy. Additionally, between 2015 and 2035, routine MACV immunization programs (preventative strategy) are cost saving when compared to the reactive vaccination strategy. Ultimately, researchers estimate that every dollar invested in the preventative strategy will generate an additional US$1.3 compared to the reactive vaccination strategy, up to US$32.2 million saved from 2015 to 2035.2

1. Colombini A, Bationo F, Zongo S, et al. Costs for households and community perception of meningitis epidemics in Burkina Faso. Clin Infect Dis. 2009;49(10):1520-5.

2. Columbini A, Trotter C, Madrid Y, et al. Costs of Neisseria meningitidis Group A disease and economic impact of vaccination in Burkina Faso. Clin Infect Dis. 2015;61(supple5):S473-82.