(Bloomberg) – Children in Cameroon became the first in the world to receive routine malaria vaccinations after the central African nation adopted the World Health Organization’s recommended malaria vaccination.
Some 19 other countries across the continent have rolled out vaccines this year, with plans to vaccinate more than 3 million children. Gabi of the Vaccine Alliance said in a statement Monday that some shipments have already been received.
This is an important step in the fight against an infectious disease that kills around 620,000 people a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly children under the age of five. WHO aims to reduce malaria incidence and malaria mortality by 90% and eliminate malaria in 35 countries over the next six years.
According to Gabi, the number of deaths from malaria has increased in Cameroon since 2017, with almost a third of hospital visits being malaria-related. Cameroon plans to vaccinate around 250,000 children this year.
Producing a malaria vaccine was a difficult goal. The parasite that causes this deadly disease is prone to mutations that make it resistant to treatment. Climate change also poses the threat of the disease spreading from primarily tropical regions to new regions.
The dose, known as Mosquirix, will be used in conjunction with existing methods such as spraying mosquito nets and indoor surfaces. It was developed by GSK Plc in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and has been piloted in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi since 2019. The vaccine should be given to children on a four-dose schedule starting at 5 months of age.
A second WHO-approved malaria vaccine could become available later this year.
(Updates Cameroon plan in 4th paragraph)
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