Three West African Nations Launch Vaccine Against Malaria


By: Modupe Adeniyi. Freelance Health Reporter

Map of West Africa showing Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone

Map of West Africa showing Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone


SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 2024. In a groundbreaking development for malaria prevention, the countries of Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone launched a large-scale rollout of the first malaria vaccine on April 25th, 2024 - World Malaria Day. This life-saving vaccine will target millions of children across the three nations, marking a significant step forward in combating this deadly disease in the African region.


"The introduction of the malaria vaccine in the Expanded Programme on Immunization for our children is a major step forward in the fight against this scourge," said Prof. Benjamin Hounkpatin, Benin's Minister of Health. "I would like to reassure you that the malaria vaccines are safe and effective and contribute to the protection of our children against this serious and fatal disease."


Liberia's Minister of Health, Dr. Louise Kpoto, echoed the sentiment: "For far too long, malaria has stolen the laughter and dreams of our children. But today, with this vaccine and the unwavering commitment of our communities, healthcare workers and our partners...we break the chain."


The rollout seeks to provide wider access to two safe and effective malaria vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) - RTS,S and R21. A pilot program from 2019-2023 in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi reached over 2 million children, resulting in a significant reduction in malaria illness, a 13% drop in overall child mortality and substantial reductions in hospitalizations.


"With the new, safe and efficacious malaria vaccine, we now have an additional tool to fight this disease," stated Dr. Austin Demby, Sierra Leone's Minister of Health. "In combination with insecticide-treated nets, effective diagnosis and treatment and indoor spraying, no child should die from malaria infection."


Malaria remains a massive health challenge in the African region, home to 11 countries carrying 70% of the global malaria burden. The region accounted for 94% of global cases and 95% of deaths in 2022. However, as more countries introduce the vaccine, the WHO hopes it will be a game-changer in lowering the immense malaria burden.


"The African region is advancing in the rollout of the malaria vaccine," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. "Working with our member states and partners, we're supporting the ongoing efforts to save the lives of young children and lower the malaria burden in the region."


While progress has stalled since 2017 due to factors like climate change and insecticide resistance, this vaccine rollout represents a crucial step in getting malaria prevention back on track through robust commitment, increased funding, data-driven responses and strong partnerships.


Source: World Health Organization Newsroom.



Published: April 27, 2024

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