Children in Ghana are starting to get a new vaccine designed to stop malaria after the World Health Organization (WHO) rolled out the new vaccine, RTS,S/AS01, last month in a bid to fight the deadly disease which affects about 200 million people annually.
Ghana is the second African country to get the vaccine, after Malawi began the pilot program last month.
RTS,S/AS01 which goes by the trade name Mosquirix is a recombinant protein-based malaria vaccine. Approved for use by European regulators in July 2015, it is the world’s first licensed malaria vaccine and also the first vaccine licensed for use against a human parasitic disease of any kind.
The vaccine is considered an additional tool in the fight against the disease, alongside bed nets and indoor insecticide spraying.
The World Health Organization’s Richard Mihigo said the vaccine is needed because progress has stalled in recent years.
“This is really something we are considering in public health as a dream coming true, because so far when you look at the intervention that has been used to fight the disease, we believe that this new vaccine is going to add a significant boost to the fight against malaria,” he said.
Malaria is the leading cause of death for children under five, accounting for about two-thirds of all deaths.
According to research by Africa Check, in 2017, WHO estimated that 435,000 people died from malaria globally. This means a person died every 1 minute and 12 seconds. The majority of these deaths were in the Africa region, where an estimated 403,000 people died. This means a person died every 1 minute and 18 seconds – or 1,104 people every day dispelling information that malaria kills one child every 30 seconds in Africa.
WHO Representative for Ghana, Dr Owen Kaluwa expressed his hope in the vaccine saying, “This breakthrough in malaria control caps a 30-year effort to develop a vaccine with proven results to help prevent malaria in young children. The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives.”
Dr Kaluwa congratulated the Ministry of Health of Ghana for its commitment to the RTS,S vaccine pilot and what it could mean to improve child health and malaria control.
WHO is hoping to vaccinate 120,000 children per country over the next 4 years.