• Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

Malaria vaccine rollout begins in Cameroon, Nigeria eyes next phase

Cameroon on Monday made history as the first country in the world to integrate malaria vaccine into its routine immunisation programme, making it the right of every child.

It introduced the RTSs malaria vaccine in 42 districts with populations at the highest disease risk.

Cameroon secured 662,000 doses from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in an initial rollout of 18 million doses allocated to 12 African countries.

Nigeria missed the chance to grab part of the consignment and now waits in line for a second malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, which could be recommended for use and potentially available by the first quarter of this year.

The vaccine evaluated in large clinical trials and large-scale implementation programmes in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi has significantly reduced malaria illness and deaths.

Cameroon is a country where malaria cases and deaths have been rising since 2017, with nearly 30 percent of all hospital consultations related to malaria.

“The vaccination shots will be available to all eligible children in the clinics. The Gavi Alliance has worked with partners, including the Global Fund to make sure vaccination is delivered as part of a package of essential interventions, including bed nets, for example,” Aurelia Nguyen, chief program officer at Gavi said, speaking during a briefing on the commencement of routine malaria immunization across Africa.

“The vaccination will save lives and provide major relief to families and the country’s health system, yielding important economic dividends across the African continent.”

Nguyen said about 20 more countries have plans to introduce the vaccine this year as some have already received their shipment doses and are making their preparations for launch.

Impact

In terms of the evaluation of the vaccine impact on public health, Kate O’brien, director of the Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals at the World Health Organization (WHO) said there had been a substantial reduction in child hospitalizations for severe malaria.

Since vaccines reach most children, introducing the malaria vaccine resulted in increased access to any malaria prevention tool, with more than 90 percent of children getting either the vaccine or treated nets to sleep, she said.

“Deaths in young children from all causes, not just malaria causes, were cut by 13 percent among children who were age eligible to receive the vaccine, and this demonstrates the sizable contribution of malaria to child mortality,” O’Brien explained.

Do RTSs tackle all parasites?

There are different types of malaria parasites, and the Rtss vaccine is against one of the parasites, the false zipperum parasite, which is the deadliest of the parasites and the most common on the African continent, O’Brien noted.

There are other forms of malaria parasites that this vaccine cannot prevent.

The falsiform parasite is not only in Africa. Some diseases from this parasite are also in parts of India, Papua, and New Guinea.

Tech Transfer

Responding to questions about the efforts to empower African countries to produce the vaccine locally, Andrew Jones, principal advisor at Unicef Supply Division, said GSK and the Serum Institute of India are working out a technology transfer solution.

He stated that collaborations are underway with local manufacturers to produce that vaccine locally in Nigeria and Ghana.

“So the agreements, as far as I know, are confidential. I don’t know the extent of the time to transfer the production locally, but they are in place, at least in Ghana Nigeria to transfer the production,” Jones said.

“What impact they’ll make on price and availability, can’t say at this point.”