Kampala, Uganda | URN | It may take two years for Ugandans to access the malaria vaccine that was approved on Wednesday 6, October 2021 by the World Health Organization (WHO), Uganda’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday 7th, October 2021.
The vaccine dubbed Mosquirix is the first jab against the mosquito-borne illness that kills over 400,000 people each year, primarily African children. The four-dose vaccine was approved after an assessment of a pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi where it was established that it was found to be about 50 per cent effective in protecting against the deadliest malaria parasite found in Africa.
The vaccine that is being recommended for use in countries with high transmission rates is supposed to be delivered in four doses in children between ages five months and three years.
However, Dr Jimmy Opigo, the Programme Manager of Malaria Control in the ministry says they plan to integrate the vaccine into the routine childhood vaccination schedule for children but are still discussing whether they should start with highly endemic areas as a pilot or roll out generally.
According to malaria research, all previous vaccine candidates never made it past clinical trials, while bed nets, the most widespread preventive measure, cut malaria deaths in children under age 5 by only about 20 percent. This implies that the new vaccine, even with modest efficacy, is the best new development in the fight against the disease in decades.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement on Wednesday 6th evening where the organization noted that in the coming months, countries and donors will be in discussions on how the vaccines will be made accessible to countries that need it most.
While the news of the vaccine came out on Wednesday 6th, he says his department has been planning ahead and have already made proposals to the government on whether it should be publicly funded or allow the private sector to import in doses. He says they are also still brainstorming on whether to vaccinate all children under five years, who constitute about 20 per cent of the population.
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For Uganda however, President Yoweri Museveni has already expressed will to support any efforts into finding the vaccine with the country grappling with 9 per cent prevalence of the disease.
Just in September at a meeting of malaria researchers organized by Harvard University, Mr. Museveni said he had launched a full war against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria but wondered why it has been impossible to have a vaccine yet pathogens such as SARS COV-2 virus that only emerged recently have vaccines.
Now, Dr Opigo says with the preparations that still await them coupled with logistical hurdles that they have to face at a global level, it may take Uganda two years before actual inoculations begin.
However, even with the vaccines in place, the doctor urges Ugandans not to lose guard on other prevention measures such as sleeping under bed nets as the complete defeat of the disease will only come with a mix of prevention interventions.