Malaria Vaccine: Health experts commend WHO’s recommendation
Some health experts have commended the World Health Organisation (WHO) for recommending the widespread use of a new malaria vaccine among children.
Known as RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S), WHO recommended that children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission be inoculated with the new vaccine.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos reports that the WHO’s recommendation on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has covered more than 800,000 children since 2019.
This is as malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa with no fewer than 260,000 African children under the age of five dying from malaria annually.
A Chief Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Dr Oluwagbemiga Aina, told NAN on Thursday that the development was a laudable move in the fight to eradicate malaria in sub-Sahara Africa.
Aina, the Head of Biochemistry and Nutrition Department in NIMR, noted that the efficacy of available malaria vaccines globally over the decades was not more than 50 percent, before this eventual breakthrough.
“The approval of a malaria vaccine by WHO is a laudable move for the fight against malaria.
“It will help reduce the malaria burden in Africa,” the malaria expert said.
A Virologist, Dr Oyewale Tomori, described the WHO’s recommendation of RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa as ‘good news’.
Tomori, also Chairman, Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19, advised that the vaccine be used to complement other measures used in combating malaria, saying that people should not give it to children and relax.
According to him, there is no single solution to malaria, adding that vaccine, medication, treated net and clean environment should all be used as complementary measures to each other.
“The RTS,S/AS01 (RTS, S) malaria vaccine is not magic bullet; it is just an additional approach to all other existing mechanisms of combating malaria.
“Prevention is better than cure, so developing a vaccine for a disease is quite commendable because it’s the first step to be taken in tackling the disease.
“Meanwhile, people should not give the vaccine to children and relax; all other means of preventing malaria should be observed.
“Usage of the treated net, clean environment, prevention of mosquito breeding places, among others should be maintained alongside with the vaccine,” Tomori said.
Also, Dr Saliu Oseni, the Deputy Secretary-General, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), lauded WHO for approving the newly developed malaria vaccine for administration on African children.
Oseni, who is also the immediate past Chairman, NMA, Lagos State Chapter, told NAN that the move was a welcomed idea, acceptable and should be encouraged.
“Malaria is one of the highest killers, especially in children, and this new vaccine should be encouraged.
“It is a welcome idea; it is a noble thing that has been in research for quite some time and people should be encouraged to take it,” he said.
According to the former NMA chair, the advantage of a vaccine is to prevent infection or where the infection happens to occur, the severity will not be so much.
He said that adding the malaria vaccine to the immunisation programme in the country would go a long way to helping children and urged the government at all levels to invest in it.
“Vaccination is usually sustainable; WHO is usually the main sponsor and that usually reduces the financial burdens on countries.
“However, it should be encouraged that governments invest in it because if you look at the cost of treatment, it is a venture that is worthwhile.
“We are hoping the government will pay attention to it because in this environment, health has not been a priority and the public is responsible for reaching out to the government to make health a priority, ” Oseni told NAN.
Similarly, a General Physician, Dr Tunji Akintade, commended the approval of the RTS, S malaria vaccine, saying it would solve a lot of challenges caused by malaria for children and pregnant women.
Akintade, former Chairman, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, however, appealed that the vaccine is made available, accessible and affordable to serve the purpose it was meant for.
He said that the vaccine would be a succour to millions of people who had battled with malaria for years.
According to WHO, malaria is far more deadly than COVID-19 in Africa and killed 386,000 Africans in 2019, compared with 212,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the past 18 months.
It says 94 per cent of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people.
“The preventable disease is caused by parasites transmitted to people by the bites of infected mosquitoes; symptoms include fever, vomiting and fatigue.
“The vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing severe cases of malaria in children is only about 30 per cent, but it is the only approved vaccine.
“The European Union’s drugs regulator approved it in 2015, saying its benefits outweighed the risks, ” WHO said.
With the approval of the RTS, S malaria vaccine, WHO’s Director-General, Mr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said it was a major advance against malaria that killed hundreds of thousands of people annually.