WHO says 650,000 children in 3 African countries get malaria vaccine

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Susana and Abigail are first to be vaccinated with the malaria vaccine in Ghana pilot. (WHO/Fanjan Combrink)

More than 650,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have received the malaria vaccine in the last two years since its launch, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday ahead of World Malaria Day to be marked on April 25.

Kate O’Brien, WHO director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals said the three African countries have established robust infrastructure to ensure that children are inoculated against the tropical disease.

“Ghana, Kenya and Malawi show that existing childhood vaccination platforms can effectively deliver the malaria vaccine to children, some of whom have not been able to access insecticide-treated bed net or other malaria prevention measures,” she said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

“This vaccine may be key to making malaria prevention more equitable and saving more lives,” she added.

More than 1.7 million doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine candidate called RTS,S have been administered in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi during the pilot phase that was launched in 2019.

“In some ways, malaria is the child health emergency of a lifetime-or many lifetimes- in Africa,” said Akpaka Kalu, team leader for tropical and vector-borne diseases in the WHO African region.

“We applaud the work of participating countries that has resulted in malaria vaccine pilots with strong vaccination coverage that will add to our understanding of the RTS,S vaccine’s potential to improve child health and strengthen malaria control and, potentially reverse trends,” Kalu added.

According to WHO, data generated from the implementation of the pilot phase of malaria vaccination in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi will inform its broader use.

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