Uganda seeks 80pc meningitis vaccination coverage

Monday January 23 2017

Uganda seeks to achieve 80 per cent vaccination coverage of the 1-29 targeted age group in meningitis high risk areas. PHOTO | FILE

Uganda has launched a mass vaccination campaign against Meningococcal meningitis in selected districts that lie within the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa.

The five-day campaign began on January 19 and will continue until January 24, according to the Ministry of Health.

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis, which covers the brain membrane and spinal cord, and can cause damage to the brain in 50 per cent of cases if not treated on time.

In December 2016, about 20 cases of the disease were reported in the central region of the country in the district of Nakaseke. Health officials say the outbreak has been contained, but the threat persists.

The meningitis bacteria are transmitted from person to person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions. Common symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, stiff neck, back pain and changes in the mental status of the affected individual.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said the mass immunisation campaign will run in 39 districts, mostly in the north, West Nile and western regions of the country.


“The objective of the campaign is to immunise the population belonging to the 1-29 age group and achieve at least 80 per cent vaccination coverage in the high risk regions,” said Dr Aceng.

Although the disease can affect people of any age, Dr Aceng said the risk is often higher among infants and young children.

Uganda lies within the African meningitis belt, which stretches from West Africa to the eastern region of the continent.

Several outbreaks have occurred in the country in the past, especially in the in the West Nile and northeastern regions.

Health experts say meningitis thrives mostly in hot and dry environments that are overcrowded.

“The dust and cold nights that characterise the December to June period increase the risk of disease transmission,” said Dr Aceng.

She added that people living in overcrowded houses and large population displacements further facilitate transmission of the disease.