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23 Jan, 2024 12:37

World’s first malaria vaccination program starts in African nation

The WHO says the mosquito-borne disease killed an estimated 13,839 people in Cameroon in 2021 alone
World’s first malaria vaccination program starts in African nation

Cameroon launched a child immunization program for malaria on Monday, using the world’s first vaccine for the disease. Late last year, the Central African country became the first on the continent to receive doses of Mosquirix, manufactured by British drugmaker GSK.

Officials have described the campaign as a milestone in the decades-long effort to combat the mosquito-borne illness on the continent, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says accounts for 96% of the world’s malaria deaths.

According to the global health agency, Cameroon records over six million malaria cases each year, with the disease killing an estimated 13,839 people in 2021 alone, the majority of whom were children under the age of five.

The vaccination will save lives. It will provide major relief to families and the country’s health system,” said Aurelia Nguyen, chief program officer at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), which is helping Cameroon secure the shots.

The WHO approved Mosquirix – the trade name for the RTS,S vaccine – in autumn 2021, following a pilot program in 2019 that provided doses to over 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

Cameroon took delivery of 331,200 shots in November, and plans to vaccinate approximately 249,133 children aged 0–24 months across 42 health districts in all ten of its regions.

The vaccine offers only about 36% immunity and must be administered in four doses, according to GAVI.

The alliance said 19 other African countries – some of which have received shipments of Mosquirix – intend to roll out vaccination programs this year, targeting more than three million children.

Last year, GAVI, WHO, and UNICEF announced that a dozen African countries would receive 18 million doses of the vaccine by 2025.

While GSK has stated that it can only produce around 15 million doses of the shots per year, WHO officials have expressed hope that the roll-out of a second vaccine developed by Oxford University will help meet “high demand” and reach millions more children.

The low-cost R21/Matrix-M vaccine has reportedly been clinically tested in the UK, Thailand, and several African countries, including a 4,800-child phase III trial in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, and Tanzania. Earlier last year, Ghana became the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval for the use of malaria shots in children aged five to 36 months.

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