Fight against malaria: WHO endorses RTS, S vaccine …following successful pilot testing in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the deployment and use of   RTS, S malaria vaccine among children in malaria-endemic countries in Africa, following a successful piloting of the vaccines in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

The vaccines are to be used alongside existing malaria treatments interventions adopted by the affected countries’ healthcare delivery systems as part of efforts to eradicate malaria from the continent.

The Director of the Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC), Dr Kwaku Poku Asante, disclosed this in a webinar organised by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) in Accra, as part of activities to mark World Malaria Day, which is observed annually on April 25.

Making a presentation on Malaria Vaccine Pilot Evaluation (MVPE), Dr Poku said following the MVPE project, key findings on safety and impact of the RTS,S vaccine revealed that even in the midst of COVID-19,  the vaccine helped to stem  the incidence of hospital admission, with cases of meningitis and cerebral malaria.

According to him, the MVPE also revealed that during the three-phase pilot period, there was no mortality among the under-five age group used in the project.

The pilot project involving the RTS,S Malaria vaccines, he said, was started in selected malaria-endemic districts across the three countries in 2020, with the project expected to end this year.

Under the two-year pilot project, a total of 1.7 million doses of malaria vaccine had been administered to more than 650 000 children with additional malaria protection in the pilot beneficiary countries.

RTS,S  malaria vaccine is the first and to date, the only vaccine that has been shown to reduce malaria in children, including life-threatening severe malaria-related hospital admissions and calling for blood transfusions.

Mr John Bawa of the Vaccine Implementation – PATH’s Centre for Vaccine Innovation and Access said in anticipation of the high demand for the vaccine , a grant of $ 5 million had been made available by the WHO and partners for countries to take advantage of the vaccine adoption.

He said pharmaceutical companies would be given the franchise to produce the vaccine locally to meet domestic demands. 

Mr Bawa commended the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) for the collaboration with the major international partners, and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in ensuring the implementation of the vaccine pilot trial in the country.

Dr Charity Binka, Executive Director of AMMREN, urged the media to continue to propagate the malaria prevention education message to the citizenry, towards the eradication of the malaria epidemic.

BY NORMAN COOPER

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