The African Media and Malaria Research Network(AMMREN) gathered relevant stakeholders to speak on the rolling out of the malaria vaccines that had recently been tested on pilot bases in three countries: Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. ‘Scaling up the use of the First Malaria Vaccine in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, experiences from Ghana, Kenya and Malawi’ was the theme of the meeting which was held to intimate the press on the progress of the vaccine in the face of the approaching World Malaria Day, 2022. The World Health Organisation(WHO), have shown in a study that one child dies every minute in Africa from malaria. The impact of this is enormous on a larger scale. In cases where the illness does not kill the child, it leads to anaemia and stops the child from growing and developing properly.
In light of this, The GAVI Alliance (GAVI) has decided to use about 160 million dollars to purchase the vaccines so that when other countries start to show interest in getting the vaccine, they will be able to get it at a subsidised price. Gavi is a public–private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.
In 2016, Gavi channeled more than half of total donor assistance for health, and most donor assistance for immunisation, by monetary measure. The funds will also help the pilot countries to begin using the vaccines in pilot areas before the end of 2022.
This is a milestone for the continent. This development will greatly enhance the number of countries who will show interest when the window for application opens up by June and in the long run interpret to a reduction in the number of children lost daily in Africa to the deadly illness that has caused menace in the continent for years now.
The testing of the vaccine was carried out in phases and Phase three included reaching out to about 16,000 children and also following up to see if the vaccine had any side effects or complications that needed to be taken note of and looked into. AMMREN worked on the testing in partnership with PATH and the Kintampo Health Research Centre(KHRC).
The director of KHRC, Dr. Koko Assante, gave the rundown of all that had been done on the production and testing of the vaccines. “A lot has been done to improve the treatment of malaria. We have come a long way from when Malaria was treated with chloroquine and now we are talking about vaccines. Studies have shown that 27 per cent of pregnant women are affected with malaria and this in turn affects the children in their womb.
We are doing all we can to stop the killer disease. In the Phase 3 of the testing, we have collected data from Ghana, Kenya and Malawi and having met the conditions of the WHO, we can start to roll it out to other countries to start fighting the battle against the illness,” Assante said. Dr. John Bawa, the representative from GAVI, went ahead to talk about the impact of the vaccine on child illness and death from malaria and the need for the media to help push the work forward.
“Coordinating the vaccinations with the national malaria programme is key as the vaccines and other interventions complement each other and work hand in hand to help the child grow healthily. Mothers and communities were able to accept the vaccines and bring their children out for vaccination because they were aware of the disease and what it could do to their children if left unattended to,” Bawa explained.