Cameroon starts world's first malaria vaccine program for children

Officials say this is a milestone in the decades-long effort to curb the mosquito-spread disease on the continent, which accounts for 95% of the world’s malaria deaths.

January 22, 2024 11:56 am | Updated 12:18 pm IST

Cameroon is beginning the world’s first routine immunisation program against malaria for children, a move that experts hope will mark the start of a campaign across Africa to dampen the impact of the parasitic disease. Image for representational purpose only.

Cameroon is beginning the world’s first routine immunisation program against malaria for children, a move that experts hope will mark the start of a campaign across Africa to dampen the impact of the parasitic disease. Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: AP

Cameroon will be the first country to routinely give children a new malaria vaccine as the shots are rolled out in Africa.

(For top health news of the day, subscribe to our newsletter Health Matters)

The campaign due to start on January 22 was described by officials as a milestone in the decades-long effort to curb the mosquito-spread disease on the continent, which accounts for 95% of the world’s malaria deaths.

“The vaccination will save lives. It will provide major relief to families and the country’s health system," said Aurelia Nguyen, chief program officer at the Gavi vaccines alliance, which is helping Cameroon secure the shots.

The Central Africa nation hopes to vaccinate about 2,50,000 children this year and next year. Gavi said it is working with 20 other African countries to help them get the vaccine and that those countries will hopefully immunise more than six million children through 2025.

In Africa, there are about 250 million cases of the parasitic disease each year, including 6,00,000 deaths, mostly in young children.

Cameroon will use the first of two recently approved malaria vaccines, known as Mosquirix. The World Health Organization endorsed the vaccine two years ago, acknowledging that even though it is imperfect, its use would still dramatically reduce severe infections and hospitalisations.

Health officials prepare to vaccinate residents of the Malawi village of Migowi, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 where young children become test subjects for the world’s first vaccine against malaria. Image for representational purpose only.

Health officials prepare to vaccinate residents of the Malawi village of Migowi, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 where young children become test subjects for the world’s first vaccine against malaria. Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: AP

The GlaxoSmithKline-produced shot is only about 30% effective, requires four doses and protection begins to fade after several months. The vaccine was tested in Africa and used in pilot programs in three countries.

GSK has said it can only produce about 15 million doses of Mosquirix a year and some experts believe a second malaria vaccine developed by Oxford University and approved by WHO in October might be a more practical solution. That vaccine is cheaper, requires three doses and India’s Serum Institute said they could make up to 200 million doses a year.

Gavi's Ms. Nguyen said they hoped there might be enough of the Oxford vaccines available to begin immunising people later this year.

Neither of the malaria vaccines stop transmission, so other tools like bed nets and insecticidal spraying will still be critical. The malaria parasite mostly spreads to people via infected mosquitoes and can cause symptoms including fever, headaches and chills.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.