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New meningitis vaccine launched in Kenya

A new vaccine designed to protect against meningitis, a highly contagious disease that could lead to disability and death, has been launched.

The vaccine, Nimenrix, will be given as a single dose. Kenya Paediatric Research Consortium chairman Mohan Lumba said if administered to children at two years, the vaccine could prevent infection for a lifetime.

"Meningitis tends to occur more in crowded areas like universities and gatherings," said Dr Lumba.

"Meningitis is a fatal disease that can kill a child within 24 hours. But if the vaccine is administered to a child it could prevent infection even for life."

Developed and manufactured by Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company, the vaccine is designed to be used by populations living in the sub-Saharan Africa, a region the World Health Organisation refers to as Meningitis Belt.

"Meningitis carries a high mortality rate if untreated yet it is a vaccine-preventable disease," said Lumba.

The new vaccine covers four strains of meningitis, making it more effective in the prevention of the highly debilitating disease. It is indicated for all age groups above one year.

It is currently registered and approved for sale in 61 countries across the European Economic Area, Canada, Australia and emerging markets, with registrations under review in another 18 countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

According to Pfizer Corporate Affairs Director Margaret Olele, the vaccine is important for Kenya where there is a vulnerable population segment.