More African countries to receive lifesaving malaria vaccine
Twelve African countries will receive 18 million doses of the first-ever vaccine against malaria over the next two years, care of global vaccine alliance GAVI, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced on Wednesday.
The RTS,S vaccine has been administered to more than 1.6 million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019 and has been shown to be safe and effective.
It has resulted in a substantial reduction in severe malaria and a fall in child deaths.
A top killer
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said malaria remains one of Africa’s deadliest diseases, killing nearly half a million children under the age of five every year, and accounting for approximately 96 per cent of global malaria deaths in 2021.
“With the climate crisis changing weather patterns, mosquitoes that carry these diseases are increasing in density and spreading further afield,” said Tedros, speaking during his regular media briefing from Geneva.
Rollout in 2024
The initial 18 million dose allocation will enable nine more African countries to introduce the vaccine into their routine immunisation programmes for the first time.
Those nations are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
The first doses are expected to arrive during the last quarter of the year, with rollout set to start by early 2024.
“This vaccine has the potential to be very impactful in the fight against malaria, and when broadly deployed alongside other interventions, it can prevent tens of thousands of future deaths every year,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, in a press release.
The partners said at least 28 African countries have expressed interest in receiving the RTS,S vaccine, while a second malaria vaccine is currently under review for pre-qualification, and if successful provides additional supply in the short term.
Concern for Palestine
During his briefing, the WHO chief also expressed deep concern over the renewed violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the past few days across the West Bank city of Jenin, which has left 12 people dead, hundreds injured, and thousands displaced.
He said roads have been destroyed, which has made it difficult to reach those who have been wounded.
“Across the occupied Palestinian territory, WHO has been using contingency funds for emergencies to train medical staff for mass casualty events and pre-positioning supplies to help health systems and health workers,” he told journalists.
Tedros added that the UN agency also calls for a de-escalation of tension and for talks to maintain peace in the long-term, so that health systems can recover.