Africa: Nearly 10 000 Children Vaccinated As Malaria Vaccine Rollout in Africa Expands

Brazzaville — Nearly 10 000 children in Burkina Faso and Cameroon have now received the RTS,S malaria vaccine since being introduced this year. A wider malaria vaccine rollout is underway this year in several African countries, with Cameroon being the first outside the malaria vaccine pilot programme to do so.

Cameroon launched the vaccine on 22 January 2024. It is being integrated into its national routine immunization programme in more than 500 public and private health facilities across 42 health districts in the country’s 10 regions.

Burkina Faso introduced the vaccine on 5 February, becoming the latest country in the region to kick off the immunization. The game-changing vaccine complements the existing range of malaria control measures to prevent the disease and lower its burden.

“Malaria is one of the major health challenges our region faces. The wider rollout of the malaria vaccine marks a significant milestone in advancing the fight against this deadly disease,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “We’re committed to supporting countries to ensure that all eligible children are protected from the devastating impacts of this preventable illness.”

The vaccine rollout in the two countries mark the start of a major initiative by the WHO Regional Office for Africa’s Accelerated Malaria Vaccines Introduction and Rollout in Africa (AMVIRA).

AMVIRA was developed as a response to the planned introduction of the two malaria vaccines (RTS,S and R21) into the routine immunization schedules of 19 countries[1] the Africa region in 2024. Through AMVIRA, WHO in Africa will strengthen the provision of state-of-the-art support to countries in their efforts to effectively and efficiently introduce and rollout malaria vaccines. The initiative also enhances coordination with partners, UNICEF, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and other partners.

In support of countries to ensure smooth introduction, community understanding and acceptance, and strengthened logistics, WHO has deployed 69 experts in immunization, data science and communication, across all 10 regions in Cameroon, as well as in Burkina Faso.

WHO is working with countries to set up comprehensive preparations such as national vaccination policy and guidelines, integrating the new vaccine into the delivery schedule of other vaccines and health interventions, developing an operational roll out plan, training of healthcare workers, investing in infrastructure, technical capacity, vaccine storage, community engagement and demand generation, and ensuring formative supervision, monitoring and evaluation of the process to ensure quality vaccine delivery.

As the malaria vaccine rollout extends to all eligible countries, WHO will continue to ensure that experts are deployed where needed, implement robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress, identify challenges and facilitate timely interventions where required. The effective strategies that were witnessed in Cameroon and Burkina Faso are being documented and will be shared with other countries as they prepare for and launch the vaccines.

Malaria burden is the highest on the African continent, which accounted for approximately 94% of global malaria cases and 95% of related deaths in 2022. There were 249 million malaria cases globally in 2022, leading to 608 000 deaths. Of these deaths, 77% were children under 5 years of age, mostly in Africa.

[1] Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mozambique, Nigeria and South Sudan

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