Nigeria starts vaccination drive against meningitis outbreak

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Image caption Health workers have 500,000 vaccines to start the immunisation campaign

Nigeria has started a mass vaccination programme in a bid to stop an outbreak of meningitis.

More than 300 people have died of the disease since late last year.

Medical officials are focusing efforts on Zamfara state, in the northwest, which is the centre of the outbreak.

Nigeria's Centre for Disease Control says 500,000 vaccinations will be administered, but many more doses are needed in order to protect a large part of the population.

An additional stock of 800,000 are expected to arrive from the UK.

Health officials in Zamfara state told the BBC that many people may be left vulnerable as they only have 10% of the three million doses of the vaccine that they need to immunise people.

Uncommon strain

This is the worst meningitis outbreak to hit Nigeria since 2009, when there were over 9,000 cases reported and 562 deaths.

The predominant type of meningitis causing the outbreak is type C, which is not common in the country. And the most affected group has been children aged five to 14.

Nigeria, which lies on the meningitis belt, stretching from the Sahel region to the Horn of Africa, is used to type A meningitis outbreaks.

Over the weekend, the government urged Nigerians not to panic, noting that the epidemic is not unique to Nigeria.

Cases are reported in neighbouring countries such as Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Togo and Burkina Faso, the health ministry said.

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