Recently, AskNigeria reported on the arrival and allocation of 18 million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01) to 12 African countries of which Nigeria was not included despite having one of the highest malaria fatality rates in the world. It has come to light now that Nigeria was not qualified for the allocation because it missed the January deadline for the second window application. The framework guidelines for allocating the limited quantity of malaria vaccine was shown to have been used as the basis for making the allocation.
Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will receive doses to continue vaccinations in pilot regions as part of the malaria vaccine implementation project. Others like Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda all received allocations. Meanwhile, Gavi, an organization working to broaden access to vaccinations in developing nations, informed correspondents through email that the announced allocations were only for those nations that applied within the January window.
Review committee recently confirmed Nigeria application.
Gavi commenced its first application period in July 2022, to facilitate releasing the first ever malaria vaccine and safeguard children in Africa from the devastating effects of malaria, focusing on three countries: Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi. A second application period, with a January 17th 2023 deadline, was announced at the end of 2022 for all countries with Plasmodium falciparum malaria transmission, including Nigeria. Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from these nations were due during the specified time frame. Yet, the country was unable to meet the deadline.
Evan O’Connell, a spokesman for Gavi, stated in response to a reporter’s enquiry, “Nigeria applied for vaccine support in our April window.” He stated that Gavi’s Independent Review Committee had recently confirmed the application, thus, allowing the organization to work swiftly to get the new supply to the people of Nigeria as soon as it becomes available. O’Connell noted that the timing for Nigeria getting the vaccine would rely on additional available supplies. Nevertheless, the organization is doing all in its capacity to bring the vaccine to the children as soon as feasible, he added.
Experts concerned Nigeria may not receive vaccine by April 2024.
Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the country’s former minister of health, announced on World Malaria Day in April that Nigeria had applied to Gavi for an allocation of the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine. The target date for this to arrive in the country is April 2024. However, experts are concerned that Nigeria may not receive the vaccine by April 2024, as the first doses are only scheduled to arrive in the 12 nations in the fourth quarter of 2023, and the countries are scheduled to commence deployment in the first quarter of 2024.
Commenting on the consequences of the delay, Professor of Public Health at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Tanimola Akande, stated that Gavi and WHO must have decided to exclude Nigeria from the list of the 12 African countries to benefit from the first batch malaria vaccine based on criteria for the roll-out of the vaccine and the limited quantity of the vaccine available. He added that this means Nigeria will fall somewhat behind countries who have access to malaria vaccines in terms of eradicating the disease.
Production is expected to delay access to the vaccine.
While waiting for the vaccination supplies to arrive, Prof. Akande said that Nigeria ought to improve its other preventive measures. He said this is because the first batch of vaccines are scheduled to be delivered to all 12 nations in the fourth quarter of 2023, with deployment beginning in 2024. He expressed optimism that with the vaccine production it would be hopeful for Nigeria to receive the vaccine later in 2024, assuring that the WHO and other organizations would cooperate to ensure that Nigeria benefited very soon.