World’s First Malaria Vaccine Rolled Out In Cameroon

On Monday, the 22nd of January, Cameroon launched the first malaria vaccine in a vaccination program, making a step described as historic by the WHO. The RTS vaccine, developed by British drugmaker GSK, targets infants in 42 districts designated a priority across the vast Central African Nation. Cameroon will use the first of two recently approved malaria vaccines, known as Mosquirix.

According to WHO, malaria kills more than 600,000 people a year mainly in Africa, and children under five years old account for 80% of deaths in the continent. After a pilot Phase in 2019, during which more than 2 million children were jabbed with the malaria vaccine in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, the drive was described as a success due to a substantial reduction in severe malaria illness and hospitalization.

Cameroon will become the first large and systematic program in the world according to the WHO coordinator of the campaign which Gavi Vaccine Alliance largely finances. The World Health Organization endorsed the malaria vaccine two years ago, acknowledging that even though it is imperfect, its use would still dramatically reduce severe infections and hospitalizations.

The malaria menace has adversely affected Africa with over 90% of malaria deaths being conceived in the Sub-Saharan region. Stressing enough is the implications of malaria on children as it disproportionately affects children below the age of five years.

Statistics point out that approximately every year, 200 million cases of malaria are noted which results in half a million deaths annually. The dreading factor about this is an insinuation that a child succumbs to malaria every 2 minutes.

Talking to AFP, Aurelia Nguyen, chief program officer of the Gavi vaccine alliance, said the rollout of the malaria vaccine will free up the health system and result in fewer hospitalizations and deaths. A drive that is geared to cover the entire continent, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger, and Sierra Leone are set to follow with large-scale vaccination programs.

Even though the move is hailed as a relief across the continent, some experts believe it is not a silver bullet. Taking to AFP, Willis Akhwale, special adviser at End Malaria Council Kenya, said, “The efficacy, much as it is saving lives, is not 100 percent, but even at 40 percent it’s saving lives and especially at the age bracket of two years old when you tend to get severe malaria.”

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