Kenya Triumphs Against Malaria.

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Kenyan children are now receiving the world’s first WHO-recommended malaria vaccine, RTS,S as part of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme. This groundbreaking initiative has expanded with the delivery of 331,200 doses to Yaound√©, Cameroon, marking a significant step in the broader vaccination efforts across high-risk areas in Africa.

 


Malaria remains a formidable threat, claiming the life of a child under five almost every minute. The year 2021 witnessed a global toll of 247 million malaria cases, resulting in 619,000 deaths. Alarmingly, 77% of these fatalities occurred among children under 5, predominantly in Africa, which bears approximately 95% of the world’s malaria cases and 96% of related deaths in 2021.

Anticipated shipments of 1.7 million doses of the RTS,S vaccine to Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger, and Sierra Leone in the coming weeks signify the broader rollout plan. Multiple African nations are in the final stages of preparing for the integration of the vaccine into routine immunization schedules, with the initial doses slated for administration in the first quarter of 2024.

The introduction of a new vaccine necessitates thorough preparations, encompassing healthcare worker training, infrastructure development, technical capacity building, vaccine storage, community engagement, and demand generation. The complexity of the four-dose schedule adds an extra layer of careful planning for effective delivery.

Since 2019, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been instrumental in the implementation of the vaccine through the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP). Over 2 million children have been beneficiaries, resulting in a notable 13% reduction in all-cause mortality within the eligible age group. The MVIP, a collaborative effort involving WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, the Global Fund, and UNITAID, has demonstrated robust vaccine uptake without compromising other malaria prevention measures or vaccine usage.

Insights from the MVIP have contributed to the recent WHO recommendation for a second malaria vaccine, R21, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Pending WHO prequalification, the availability of two vaccines is poised to meet the high demand, benefiting all children in malaria-prone areas.

Gavi, WHO, UNICEF, and their partners are actively engaging with interested countries, preparing for the systematic expansion of vaccination efforts. While malaria vaccines offer promise, they form part of a comprehensive strategy that includes insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, intermittent preventive treatment, antimalarials, effective case management, and treatment.

David Marlow, CEO of Gavi, underscores the importance of investing in the malaria vaccine, foreseeing its pivotal role in saving thousands of children annually. UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell envisions the vaccine as a transformative force in malaria control. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calls for global solidarity to bring malaria vaccines to scale, emphasizing the positive impact on children’s lives. WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, highlights the vaccine’s significance as a crucial addition to existing tools, supporting efforts to reverse the upward trend in malaria cases and reduce deaths across the region.

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