An agreement to increase the availability of malaria vaccines in Africa has been signed between British pharmaceutical firm, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Bharat Biotech (BBIL) of India.
Signed in collaboration with PATH, a global entity dedicated to ending health inequity, the agreement will facilitate the transfer of manufacturing of the protein part of the malaria vaccine from GSK to BBIL and to enhance efforts at eliminating malaria which is the leading killer of African children and pregnant mothers.
Mr John Tanko Bawa, Country Coordinator , PATH Ghana, said the new malaria vaccine; ( RTS,S/ASO1 ) production transfer deal forms part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) backed initiative to enhance long-term access to the vaccine in high-burden African countries.
Giving an update on the Malaria Vaccine Pilot Implementation Programme during the second Malaria Media Coalition zoom meeting organised by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) on Thursday, Mr Bawa indicated that the new agreement would expand the on-going Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to cover the rest of the African continent.
More than 30 journalists who formed the coalition and AMMREN participated in the virtual event.
Continuing, Mr Bawa revealed that GSK had already donated 10 million doses of the new vaccine for the pilot currently in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. It would officially end in 2023.
He said In Ghana, 35 districts in seven regions were participating in the MVIP pilot, adding that about 75 percent performance rate had been recorded, indicating impressive work done.
“We are working with the Ministry of Health to look at how we can overcome these challenges. Government is doing its bit by building CHPS compounds and connecting roads to those areas. The drone delivery system is also helping and playing a key role in ensuring that those hard-to-reach areas access the vaccine,” he said.
“So, any intervention that will go to accelerate the pace at which malaria should be controlled and eliminated in Africa is welcome news.
About 500,000 children have received the first dose of the malaria vaccine in the three participating African countries since 2019 when piloting commenced.
Mr Bawa urged Ghanaians not to have fears regarding the malaria vaccine since it was developed for Africa and by Africans and that “Since we started piloting about a year ago, there have not been any safety concerns raised with any child that has received the vaccine. Parents still have confidence in the vaccine and they still come back to receive the subsequent doses.”
BY NORMAN COOPER