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Government urged to tap into $160 million malaria vaccine funding

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George Jobe

Government has been urged to take advantage of the opportunity for countries to apply for funding from the Gavi Alliance to introduce a further roll-out of the malaria vaccine.

Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said there is support of nearly $160 million from 2022-2025.

“This international support of nearly US$ 160 million from 2022-2025 will facilitate increased vaccine access to children at high risk of illness and death from malaria, starting with Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, the three African countries that began pilot introduction of the vaccine in 2019, and then expanding to other eligible endemic countries.

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“Since the world’s first malaria vaccine was introduced in 2019, it has been well accepted in African communities after a relatively short period of time. Demand is high even in the context of Covid-19: vaccination performance for the first dose is reaching between 73 percent to over 90 percent coverage, depending on the country, with no major disruptions during the pandemic,” Moeti said.

Commenting on this development, epidemiologist Titus Divala said fighting malaria has mostly been done using insecticide spraying, treated-bed nets, rapid detection tests, timely effective treatment and preventive treatment for pregnant women.

However, these tools combined are inadequate because some people remain unreached and at risk, he said.

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“The vaccine was piloted in real-life settings here in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya to better understand its effectiveness and iron out implementation challenges.

“Results of the 3-country pilot implementation have now shown that the vaccine is easy to deliver, was able to get to children who would otherwise not get full-time access to bednets or a clinic and it did not have harmful side-effects, and was cost-effective at programmatic level,” he said.

In sum, he said, the vaccine is a safe and an effective intervention that will transform Malawi’s battle against malaria and save thousands of our children every year.

“It is therefore good news that the WHO, Malawi Government and partners are considering launching another phase of vaccinations. I hope we will soon have the vaccine on our national routine immunisation program,” he said.

Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director George Jobe said Malawi should be among the first countries to apply for this funding.

“Malaria remains one of the leading killers especially among our children and if we vaccinate them, we are safeguarding the young generations,” he said.

According to Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes at Gavi, to date about 1.3 million children have benefitted from the vaccine in the three African pilot countries.

“Malaria has devastated communities for far too long in Africa. We know that initially, supply, will not meet demand, nevertheless, we look forward to working with countries and our partners to introduce and scale this new tool in our fight against malaria, which could save the lives of thousands of children across the continent.

“Gavi is proud to support this vaccine, and we hope this is just the beginning of a broader rollout that will see populations across the continent increasingly protected against this deadly disease,” Maphosa said.

There was no immediate response from the Ministry of Health.

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