120 000 children to receive malaria vaccines

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is targetting 120 000 children aged five to 22 months in a pilot phase of malaria vaccine, RTS,S, set to roll out tomorrow.

Confirming the development in an interview Sunday, MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango said the project, which the ministry is conducting with World Health Organisation (WHO), will be piloted in 11 districts of Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Ntchisi, Mchinji, Lilongwe Rural, Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi, Phalombe, Chikwawa and Nsanje.

A child gets vaccinated in this file photograph

He said delegates from WHO and PATH, a global health organisation, are expected to observe the first malaria vaccine administration at Mitundu Health Centre in Lilongwe.

Malango said: “The trial was already done and Malawi participated in phase 3 trials through UNC (University of North Carolina) project Malawi at area 18 health centre.

“We expect a reduced number of malaria episodes in those who will receive all four doses. We will closely follow up these children to monitor this benefit compared to those that will not be vaccinated.”

He further said the districts were selected based on burden of the disease, adding: “These are some of the high malaria-burdened districts.”

Malawi, together with Ghana and Kenya, were earmarked for the pilot project to be carried out in public health facilities.

The RTS,S vaccine trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite which is spread by mosquito bites.

WHO said the vaccine had the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.

The vaccine needs to be given four times—monthly for three months and a fourth dose 18 months later.

WHO is running pilots in the three countries to see if a full malaria vaccine programme could be started. It will also continue to assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination.

WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said the prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news.

She said information gathered in the pilot programme will help in decisions on the wider use of the vaccine.

About 212 million new cases of malaria are reported globally each year with 429 000 deaths.

The pilots are being funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund, WHO and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

The vaccine, RTS,S, also known as Mosquirix, was created by scientists at GSK, a science-led global healthcare company.

 According to the National Malaria Control Programme, malaria remains the major cause of death among under-five children and pregnant women in the country.

Malaria admission in most health facilities in the country accounts for 40 percent while 30 percent are treated as outpatients. n

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