Cameroon has become the first country to start routine vaccinations against malaria, a milestone described as “a transformative chapter in Africa’s public health history”.
The jab is free to children up to the age of six months. Malaria kills around 600,000 people annually, mostly in Africa, with children accounting for around 80% of deaths.
Pilots of the RTS,S vaccine in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi showed that it reduced malaria deaths by 13%. That’s a relatively low efficacy rate but it could still save many lives.
“For a long time, we have been waiting for a day like this,” said Dr Mohammed Abdulaziz, division head at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “It brings more than just hope, it brings a reduction in the mortality and morbidity associated with malaria.”
Twenty countries are expected to launch their own malaria vaccine programmes in 2024. But with only 18m doses available before 2025, supply is an issue. A second jab, R21, which has been shown to be even more effective, could ease supply issues if it passes regulatory hurdles.
Image: Syed Ali