650,000 children in 3 African countries receive malaria vaccination – WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that more than 650,000 children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have received the malaria vaccine in the past two years since its launch. They made the announcement on Tuesday ahead of World Malaria Day to be marked on April 25.

Kate O’Brien, WHO director of the Department of Immunisation, Vaccines, and Biologicals said the three African countries had established robust infrastructure to ensure that children were 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 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 have 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.