Malawi amongst 12 African countries to receive life-saving malaria vaccine – Capital Radio Malawi
13 June, 2024

Malawi amongst 12 African countries to receive life-saving malaria vaccine

Photo credit: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

In a significant milestone in the fight against malaria, Malawi is set to receive the first-ever malaria vaccine as part of a groundbreaking initiative that aims to save countless lives across the African continent. This crucial step forward comes as malaria remains one of Africa’s deadliest diseases, claiming the lives of nearly half a million children under the age of five each year. 

The allocations of the malaria vaccine have been determined through a framework that prioritizes areas with the highest need and where the risk of malaria illness and death among children is greatest. The framework was developed by a group consisting of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Gavi Secretariat, among others. Since 2019, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been leading the way in delivering the malaria vaccine through the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP). 

This initiative, coordinated by the WHO and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, as well as Unitaid, has already administered the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine to over 1.7 million children in these countries. 

The vaccine has proven to be safe and effective, resulting in a substantial reduction in severe malaria cases and a decline in child mortality rates.

 Inspired by the success of the MVIP, an additional nine countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, will introduce the vaccine into their routine immunization programs for the first time. This expansion will be made possible by an initial allocation of 18 million doses obtained through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, via UNICEF. 

The vaccine doses are expected to arrive in the recipient countries during the last quarter of 2023, with the roll-out set to commence in early 2024. 

The hope is that this vaccine, when combined with other malaria prevention strategies, will prevent tens of thousands of deaths each year. Dr. Kate O’Brien, the WHO Director of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, emphasized the urgent need for this life-saving intervention, stating, “The high demand for the vaccine and the strong reach of childhood immunization will increase equity in access to malaria prevention and save many young lives. We will work tirelessly to increase supply until all children at risk have access.” 

The allocation of the malaria vaccine is a result of a collaborative effort among governments, international organizations, and civil society. The success of this initiative relies not only on the availability of vaccine doses but also on effective distribution systems and public awareness campaigns. 

Malawi, in particular, stands as an example of the positive impact the malaria vaccine can have on communities. As one of the early adopters of the vaccine, the country has witnessed a significant reduction in severe malaria cases and a decline in child deaths.

 The allocation of the vaccine will now enable even more children in Malawi to benefit from this life-saving advancement. As the annual global demand for malaria vaccines continues to rise, efforts are underway to increase supply. 

In addition to the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, another vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, developed by Oxford University and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), is expected to be prequalified by the WHO soon.

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