Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), the World Health Organisation and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday announced that 12 African countries would receive the malaria vaccine.
In a statement, the agencies stated that the countries would receive 18 million doses of the first-ever vaccine against malaria over the next two years.
The vaccine has been administered to more than 1.6 million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019 and has been shown to be safe and effective.
It resulted in a substantial reduction in severe malaria and a fall in child deaths.
The WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said malaria remained one of Africa’s deadliest diseases, killing nearly half a million children under five every year, accounting for approximately 96 per cent of global malaria deaths in 2021.
“With the climate crisis changing weather patterns, mosquitoes that carry these diseases are increasing in density and spreading further afield,” said Mr Ghebreyesus, speaking during his regular media briefing from Geneva.
The initial 18 million dose allocation will enable nine more African countries to introduce the vaccine into their routine immunisation programmes for the first time.
Those nations include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
The first doses are expected to arrive during the last quarter of 2023, with rollout set to start by early 2024.
“This vaccine has the potential to be very impactful in the fight against malaria, and when broadly deployed alongside other interventions, it can prevent tens of thousands of future deaths every year,” stated Thabani Maphosa, managing director of country programmes delivery at Gavi.
The partners said at least 28 African countries had expressed interest in receiving the RTS,S vaccine, while a second malaria vaccine is currently under review for pre-qualification and, if successful, provides additional supply in the short term.