WHO sets tough conditions for access to malaria vaccines

malaria vaccines

The Ministry of Health will first add the malaria vaccine to the country’s routine vaccination schedule before the country is allocated its first batch of the vaccine.

The malaria vaccine, RTS, S, known by the brand name Mosquirix is the first malaria vaccine to be given approval by the World Health Organization-WHO. 

The vaccine is recommended for use in children aged 5 years and below in areas with high malaria transmission.    

Each child is required to receive four injections for full protection. Studies carried out in Malawi, Ghana and Uganda show that the vaccine is 77 percent effective in protecting against malaria infections.

An estimated, 20 million cases of malaria were reported in the country, with 30,900 deaths.

While the malaria vaccine is being looked at eradicating the disease, countries like Uganda will have to make changes to some of their health programmes to be able to receive the vaccines.

WHO estimates that Uganda has the largest global burden of malaria cases. In 2020, it’s estimated that over 20 million cases of malaria were reported in the country, with 30,900 deaths.

The programme manager of the National Malaria Programme, Dr Jimmy Opigo says that the country should add the vaccine to the routine immunization schedule.

 The government will also have to add the vaccine to the list of malaria control and prevention interventions.

Uganda will likely receive one million doses of the vaccines next year. According to Dr Opigo, the government will be expected to allocate funds that will likely go towards the procurement of vaccines and syringes.

The vaccine will be used in the Karamoja-West Nile belt because the prevalence of malaria in these areas is high.

“We shall likely focus on areas with high cases of malaria-like Karamoja where the prevalence is higher than the national average. In Karamoja, the prevalence is 30 yet in Kampala, it is 9.2. Our focus will be on places with high cases,” Dr Opigo said.

At the moment, there are 12 immunizable diseases on the Routine programme. These include; polio, Tuberculosis, diphtheria, whopping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, Meningitis, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and rubella.

According to WHO guidelines, before a vaccine can be introduced into a country’s immunization plan, a number of considerations need to be taken.

 They include whether the disease is a public threat, its incidence and the effectiveness of other strategies used to prevent or control the disease. In addition to this, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine need to be considered.

The UN health agency also says countries need to consider whether the vaccine supplies are reliable and sustainable.

Last week during the Malaria Scientific Workshop, Dr Annet Kisakye, the WHO Country Immunization Officer said countries are encouraged to introduce the vaccine in a phased manner since the supply of the vaccines will likely be low since it is a new product

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