MALAWI is among three African countries that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved for a pilot implementation of the first ever malaria vaccine, RTS, S.
WHO, Ministry of Health and officials from an international, non-profit global health organisation, Path, made the announcement at a press briefing in Lilongwe yesterday.
RTS, S, which is also known as Mosquirix, is an injectable vaccine that provides partial protection against malaria in young children. Malaria remains the number one cause of illness and death in the country with an estimated six million reported cases, resulting into over 4,000 deaths annually.
Other countries that are part of the pilot programme are Kenya and Ghana and each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included.
High malaria burden areas will have to be prioritised and the information gathered from the pilot implementation will help to inform later decisions about potential wider use of the vaccine.
The vaccine will be assessed as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to the core package of WHOrecommended measures for malaria prevention.
Malaria Control Programme, Manager, Michael Kayange, said the two phased pilot implementation programme, which is expected to run from 2017 to 2022, will involve 120,000 children in the age range of five to 25 months.
Kayange said the vaccine provides a very good complementary tool against malaria as it has a huge potential to reduce malaria cases in children.
The results of the clinical trial for RTS,S which was conducted between 2009 and 2014 in seven sub-Saharan Africa countries, including Malawi, show that the vaccine reduced malaria cases by 40 percent.
“We will significantly reduce hospital admissions due to severe malarial cases thereby reducing the pressure on health workers and health facilities. We are also poised to reduce the cases of anaemia, which are common in malaria patients, and in that way we will reduce the number of people who need blood transfusion by almost 28 percent,” Kayange said.
Malaria Advisor at WHO Malawi office, Wilfred Dodoli, said Malawi has been chosen to pilot the implementation due to its performance in malaria prevention initiatives and activities.
Malawi has high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal nets, wellfunctioning malaria and immunisation programmes, a high malaria burden even after scale-up of nets and participated in the phase three of the vaccine trial.
“We are confident that Malawians will embrace the vaccine on top of other preventive measures and we will be able to reduce malaria cases by 50 percent in the next five years as we prepare for the Sadc’s total elimination of the disease by 2030,” Dodoli said.
Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (Gavi), the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund and Unitaid are partnering to provide $49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme which runs from 2017 to 2020 and WHO and GlaxoSmithKline, vaccine manufacturers, will complement through in kind contributions.
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