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‘Malaria vaccine a success’

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By Wezzie Gausi:

Less than a year after World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme, which targets Malawi, Ghana and Kenya, the country has started registering success.

Under the programme, the world’s first malaria vaccine is being administered to children in large-scale clinical testing, with WHO indicating that the vaccine “has been shown to provide partial protection against malaria”.

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When the initiative was launched this year, WHO said “the world’s first malaria vaccine in childhood vaccination is being rolled out in 2019 in selected areas of Ghana, Malawi and Kenya”, with baby Lordina becoming one of the first to get the vaccine in Ghana.

And, in Malawi, the turnout of children is said to be high, with Mchinji District Hospital (MDH) officials saying the number of people bringing their children to get the vaccine keeps on increasing since the launch of the initiative on April 23.

MDH Malaria Coordinator, Lameck Mzava, said they were targeting 672 under-five children.

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“At first, when the vaccine was introduced in April, 93 under-five children got the vaccine and, as at end April, we managed to increase the number of children to 259,” he said.

Mzava hailed the development, saying malaria was a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in under-five children.

“Of course, there are always problems and misunderstanding whenever a vaccine is introduced but, in Mchinji District, the malaria vaccine has been well received.

“Remember that the malaria vaccine is being introduced as a pilot programme in routine immunisation and as an additional malaria control measure,” Mzava said.

He said there had not been any case of complications registered.

“Delivering the world’s first malaria vaccine will help reduce the burden of one of the most pressing health challenges globally. And we, as a hospital, are ready to see a generation of under-five children that is free from malaria,” Mzava said.

One of the mothers whose child has been vaccinated, Lucy Mateyo, said she had not noticed any negative symptom on her child.

Mateyo said, as is the case with most vaccines, the child sometimes has fever that subsides.

“When I first heard about the vaccine, I was very reluctant to take my child to receive the first dose, bearing in mind that babies also receive other vaccines.

“My worry was that, maybe, the vaccine would have bad results on my child as this is a pilot phase but, so far, there has been nothing like that. I encourage other mothers to bring their under five-children to get vaccinated at the hospital,” Mateyo said.

WHO indicates that malaria remains one of the world’s most stubborn health challenges, infecting more than 200 million people every year and killing about half a million, most of them children, in Africa.

Bed netting and insecticides are the chief protection measures.

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