Background: In New Zealand today, babies of Pacific ethnicity born in South Auckland have a 1-in-48 chance of contracting meningococcal disease by the time they are 5 years of age.
Methods: The New Zealand government, Chiron Vaccines and the University of Auckland have collaborated to develop and investigate a group B meningococcal vaccine to allow a mass-immunization program to control a prolonged and intense epidemic. Within 3 years, a strain-specific meningococcal outer membrane vesicle vaccine has been developed, and overlapping clinical trials have been undertaken; a report was submitted for regulatory approval within 2 years. An important aspect of the project's strategy was to apply, with physicochemical data, the results of the New Zealand outer membrane vesicle vaccine trials to the parent vaccine produced and evaluated by the Norwegian National Institute of Public Health. Immunogenicity results for the New Zealand vaccine are promising, with the vaccine showing a reactogenicity profile similar to that of the parent vaccine.
Conclusions: Controlling the epidemic depends on delivering an effective vaccine to the individuals at greatest risk, ie, mainly Maori and Pacific populations that previous health programs have struggled to reach. Participation of and partnership with these communities in public health decision-making and vaccine delivery will be critical to a successful immunization program.