Cameroon launches world’s first malaria vaccine campaign

NAIROBI (Kenya), Jan 23: In a groundbreaking move to address the persistent threat of malaria, Cameroon on Monday started the world’s first vaccination campaign against the disease.

Head of Disease Control at the Africa Centre for Disease Controls, Mohammed Abdulaziz said the historic step brings hope in the fight against the deadly mosquito-borne disease, which kills hundreds of thousands of people annually, particularly children, in Africa.

“The vaccination is a life-saving intervention, a beacon of hope in our collective effort to combat the devastating impact of malaria,” Anadolu Agency (AA) quoted Abdulaziz as saying during a press briefing on Monday.

He also added that Cameroon, with its high malaria burden, especially in young children, was seen as a prime candidate for the expanded rollout.

The rollout, supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, and the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, will see the systematic integration of the vaccine called “RTS, S” into the Central African nation’s routine childhood immunisation schedule.

Aurelia Nguyen, chief programme officer at Gavi, noted that the first rollout will see the introduction of the RTS, S vaccine in 42 districts.

According to health authorities, young children will receive the malaria vaccine alongside other essential vaccinations, ensuring wider and sustained coverage.

The RTS, S malaria vaccine is administered in a 4-dose schedule to children living in areas with moderate to high malaria transmission.

The recommended age for starting the series is five months old, with subsequent doses given at monthly intervals until the child reaches nine months of age.

A booster dose is then recommended at two years of age.

According to the WHO’s 2021 World Malaria Report, Sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for roughly 95 per cent of global malaria cases and 96 per cent of deaths.

Children under five bear the brunt of the disease, with an estimated 263,000 lives lost in 2020 alone.