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Impact of a mass vaccination campaign against a meningitis epidemic in a refugee camp

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Serogroup A meningococcus epidemics occurred in refugee populations in Zaire in August 1994. The paper analyses the public health impact of a mass vaccination campaign implemented in a large refugee camp. We compared meningitis incidence rates from 2 similar camps. In Kibumba camp, vaccination was implemented early in the course of the epidemic whilst in the control camp (Katale), vaccination was delayed. At a threshold of 15 cases per 100 000 population per week an immunization campaign was implemented. Attack rates were 94 and 134 per 100 000 in Kibumba and Katale respectively over 2 months. In Kibumba, one week after crossing the threshold, 121 588 doses of vaccine were administered covering 76% of all refugees. Vaccination may have prevented 68 cases (30% of the expected cases). Despite its rapid institution and the high coverage achieved, the vaccination campaign had a limited impact on morbidity due to meningitis. In the early phase in refugee camps, the relative priorities of meningitis vaccination and case management need to be better defined.
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Keywords: Neisseria meningitidis; active immunization; bacterial meningitis; epidemics; epidemiology; meningitis; meningococcal meningitis; outbreaks; refugees; vaccination

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Médecins Sans Frontières Belgium, Brussels, Belgium, 2: Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 3: Macfarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: 1996-06-01

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