By Moses Okello, Bureau Chief, East Africa
As the World Health Organization, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, and UNICEF recently announced the allocation of 18 million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine (RTS, SA/AS01) to 12 African countries, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)has commended the decision as a positive step forward in the fight against one of the deadliest diseases on the continent.
This announcement follows the successful pilot of the RTS, SA/AS01 in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi under the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) since 2019. According to WHO, the vaccine, which has been administered to over 1.7 million children across the three pilot countries, has shown promising results in reducing severe malaria and death among children.
“The decision to allocate such a substantial number of doses to the countries with the greatest need in terms of high risk of malaria and malaria-related deaths among children under five demonstrates a strengthened commitment to addressing malaria in Africa,” said AHF Africa Bureau Chief Dr. Penninah Lutung. “However, it is important to reiterate that efforts to combat malaria successfully require a multi-faceted approach, including the distribution of treated mosquito nets, improved access to diagnostics and treatment, ramping up vaccine production and distribution to meet the demand, and the need for technology transfer to support local vaccine manufacturing.”
Countries earmarked to receive the vaccines are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda – in addition to the pilot countries Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. The first doses are expected to arrive in the respective countries during the last quarter of 2023, ahead of the rollout set for early 2024. Twenty-eight additional African countries have also expressed interest in receiving the RTS, SA/AS01 vaccine.
AHF launched the Vaccinate Our World campaign during COVID-19 to help ensure all countries have equitable access to lifesaving vaccines and other health commodities during the pandemic. VOW has since expanded to include advocacy for access to all vaccines. AHF calls on pharmaceutical companies to share intellectual property, technology, and know-how in order to increase production and access to medicines, diagnostics, and therapeutics – particularly during international health crises.