The World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) has announced the selection of Ghana and two other countries – Kenya and Malawi – to take part in a WHO-coordinated pilot implementation programme that will make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018.
Making the announcement at the commemoration of the World Malaria Day on the theme ‘End Malaria for Good’, the WHO/AFRO said the injectable vaccine RTSS was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by plasmodium falciparum.
The United Nations Health Organisation further explained that the vaccine will be assessed in the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) pilot as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, making the announcement at a high-level forum in Nairobi Kenya, explained that the prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news, indicating that the vaccine combined with existing malaria interventions would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.
“Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” Dr Moeti said.
Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62 percent reduction in malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015, yet approximately 429,000 people died of the disease in 2015, the majority of them young children in Africa.
Specifically, the pilot programme will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths and its safety in the context of routine use.
The three countries were selected to participate in the pilot based on the following criteria: high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal-treated nets (LLINs); well-functioning malaria and immunisation programmes, a high malaria burden even after scale-up of LLINs, and participation in the Phase III RTS,S malaria vaccine trial.
Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots. High malaria burden areas will be prioritised, as this is where the benefit of the vaccine is predicted to be highest. The malaria vaccine will be administered via intramuscular injection and delivered through the routine national immunisation programmes.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and UNITAID, are partnering to provide US$49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme (2017-2020) which will be complemented by in-kind contributions from WHO and GSK.
RTS,S was developed by GSK and is the first malaria vaccine to have successfully completed a Phase III clinical trial and obtained a positive scientific opinion from a stringent medicines regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Dr Charity Binka, Executive Secretary, African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), welcomed the decision by the WHO.
She said the introduction of the vaccine in the three countries is an opportunity to step up advocacy directed to whipping up public support for the malaria elimination agenda and specifically for the vaccine.
AMMREN, thus, lauding the initiative, called for the training and equipping of journalists to promote accurate and effective dissemination of information on the vaccine and other tools to ensure that media content on the vaccine is well packaged and disseminated in a timely and accurate manner, nationally and globally.
Source: Daily Guide
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