Home International News Africa WHO kicks off shipments of malaria vaccine to African countries

WHO kicks off shipments of malaria vaccine to African countries

Since 2019, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been administering the vaccine in 4 doses from around 5 months of age. The deliveries herald final steps toward broader vaccination against malaria

Shipments of the world’s first WHO-recommended malaria vaccine, RTS,S, have begun with 331 200 doses landing in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The delivery is the first to a country not previously involved in the malaria vaccine pilot programme and signals that scale-up of vaccination against malaria across the highest-risk areas on the African continent will begin shortly.

Channel 1

Malaria burden is the highest on the African continent, which accounts for approximately 95% of global malaria cases and 96% of related deaths in 2021.

Nearly every minute, a child under five dies of malaria. In 2021, there were 247 million malaria cases globally, which led to 619 000 deaths. Of these deaths, 77 per cent were children under 5 years of age, mostly in Africa.

A further 1.7 million doses of the RTS,S vaccine are expected to arrive in Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone in the coming weeks, with additional African countries set to receive doses in the months ahead. This reflects the fact that several countries are now in the final stage of preparations for malaria vaccine introduction into routine immunisation programmes, which should see first doses administered in Q1 2024.

Since 2019, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been administering the vaccine in a schedule of 4 doses from around 5 months of age in selected districts as part of the pilot programme, known as the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP).

More than 2 million children have been reached with the malaria vaccine in the three African countries through MVIP – resulting in a remarkable 13% drop in all-cause mortality in children age-eligible to receive the vaccine, and substantial reductions in severe malaria illness and hospitalizations.

Other key findings from the pilot programme show that vaccine uptake is high, with no reduction in use of other malaria prevention measures or uptake of other vaccines. MVIP is coordinated by WHO in collaboration with PATH, UNICEF and other partners, and funded by Gavi, the Global Fund, and UNITAID, with donated doses from GSK, the manufacturer of the vaccine.

Safety

The data from the pilot have shown the impact and safety of the RTS,S vaccine and provided important evidence on vaccine acceptability and uptake that helped inform the recent WHO recommendation of a second malaria vaccine – R21, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).

Results of a phase 3 trial for R21 showed that the vaccine has a good safety profile in the clinical trial setting and reduces malaria in children.

The R21 vaccine is currently under review by WHO for prequalification. The availability of two malaria vaccines is expected to increase supply to meet the high demand from African countries and result in sufficient vaccine doses to benefit all children living in areas where malaria is a public health risk.

In preparation for scaled-up vaccination, Gavi, WHO, UNICEF and partners are working with countries that have expressed interest and/or have confirmed rollout plans on the next steps.

“This is another breakthrough moment for malaria vaccines and malaria control, and a ray of light in a dark time for so many vulnerable children in the world. The delivery of malaria vaccines to new countries across Africa will offer life-saving protection to millions of children at risk of malaria,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But we must not stop here. Together, we must find the will and the resources to bring malaria vaccines to scale, so more children can live longer, healthier lives.”

“This is a significant advancement towards scaling up malaria vaccination in the region. The vaccine, which protects children from the severe forms of the disease, is a vital addition to the existing set of malaria prevention tools and will help bolster our efforts to reverse the rising trend in cases and further reduce deaths,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

 

Website | + posts
kiico