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Nigeria excluded as malaria vaccine arrives

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By Usman Oladimeji

RTS,S/AS01 will be distributed to 12 countries across Africa.

A press release shared by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, has revealed that the long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is set to arrive in Africa. It said between 2023 and 2025, 18 million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01) will be distributed to 12 countries across various regions in Africa, excluding Nigeria. Till now, the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine is the first recommendation made by WHO for use in areas with little to high malaria transmission to protect children.

It becomes apparent that Nigeria, a country severely affected by the menace was left out from receiving the first ever malaria vaccine supply in the region. Nigeria is part of the four African countries that accounted for more than half of all malaria deaths worldwide, representing 31.3%. However, Gavi reported that the highly demanded first batch of RTS,S/AS01 vaccines were distributed based on a two-stage principle: firstly, the vaccines should go to where the risk is greatest, and secondly, where the health system is best able to ensure their effective delivery.

Selected countries will begin receiving the vaccine in Q4 2023.

The RTS,S/AS01 vaccine had been introduced in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi since 2019, administered to more than 1.7 million children, delivering it through the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme, coordinated by WHO and funded by Gavi, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid. Resultantly, the number of cases of severe malaria and the number of deaths among children have been drastically reduced owing to the vaccination, indicating its safety and effectiveness. The malaria vaccine has attracted interest from at least 28 African countries.

Nine additional African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, will be able to integrate the vaccine into their routine immunization programmes with the first batch of 18 million dose allocation, alongside Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi bringing the number to 12. According to the press release, the malaria vaccine doses will begin arriving in the selected countries in the fourth quarter of 2023, with implementation beginning in the early 2024. This allocation round utilizes the supply of vaccine doses available to Gavi through UNICEF.

Making the most efficient use of the available doses is important.

Approach employed toward distributing the limited amount of the malaria vaccine prioritizes giving shots to regions where the need is much higher and where children are at the highest risk of contracting the disease and dying as a result. Thabani Maphosa, Gavi’s Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery asserted that the vaccine has the potential to be tremendously powerful in the fight against malaria and when widely deployed in tandem with other treatments, can prevent tens of thousands potential fatalities annually.

As the project expands to a total of 12 countries, Maphosa emphasized the importance of making the most efficient use of the available doses by incorporating all the lessons learned from the pilot programmes. Nearly half a million African children under the age of five succumb to malaria each year, making it one of the continent’s deadliest diseases. In 2021, Africa accounted for roughly 95 percent of global cases of malaria and 96 percent of fatalities.

Supply is being ramped up for more children to benefit from it.

Ephrem Lemango, associate director of immunization at UNICEF, said that this vaccine’s widespread distribution will improve children’s chances of survival, particularly in Africa. Lemango said the supply of this life-saving vaccine is being ramped up for more children to benefit from it. Dr. Kate O’Brien, the World Health Organization’s Director of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, described the malaria vaccine as a major step forward in protecting children’s health and extending their lives. The huge demand for the vaccine and the widespread use of children immunization, he continued, will improve access to malaria prevention for all children.

Related Link

Gavi: Website

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