The United Nations marked a significant step in combating malaria across Africa following the arrival of the initial consignment of doses in Cameroon, heralding the anticipated scale-up of malaria vaccination efforts.
Initiated in 2019, a pilot phase in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi witnessed over two million children receiving vaccinations, leading to considerable reductions in severe malaria cases and hospitalizations.
This effort is now transitioning into a wider rollout phase, with Cameroon receiving 331,200 doses of RTS,S—the first malaria vaccine endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The recent delivery signals the imminent expansion of vaccination campaigns targeting high-risk areas across the African continent, according to a joint statement by WHO, UNICEF, and the Gavi vaccine alliance.
Described as a historic step towards broader vaccination against one of Africa’s deadliest diseases for children, the doses are generously donated by the manufacturer, GSK.
Cameroon’s Health Minister, Malachie Manaouda, urged parents to embrace this life-saving intervention, emphasizing that malaria continues to pose a significant health threat in the country.
Additional deliveries of 1.7 million doses are scheduled for Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger, and Sierra Leone in the coming weeks. Health Ministers from respective countries expressed optimism about the vaccine’s potential to save lives and alleviate the disease burden among their populations.
Several African nations are in the final stages of preparation to introduce malaria vaccines into routine immunization programs, with the first doses expected to be administered between January and March 2024.
UNICEF chief Catherine Russell likened the introduction of vaccines to adding a star player to the field, expressing enthusiasm about entering a new phase in immunization and malaria control.
Highlighting Africa’s overwhelming burden of malaria cases and deaths, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the vaccine rollout as a breakthrough moment and a beacon of hope for vulnerable children.
The RTS,S vaccine targets the plasmodium falciparum parasite, responsible for the most severe cases of malaria globally and prevalent in Africa. Administered in a four-dose schedule starting at around five months of age, broad implementation of this malaria vaccination in endemic regions holds the promise of significantly impacting malaria control efforts, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives annually.
The collective efforts leading to this momentous step in malaria vaccination, years in the making, aim to create a world where no child succumbs to malaria, emphasized David Walton, the United States’ global malaria coordinator.