In a landmark move in the ongoing efforts to combat Malaria and save thousands of lives of children in Africa, Cameroon has introduced a new malaria vaccine for children, thereby becoming the first country to rollout the world’s first routine vaccine programme.
The West African country today launched the RTS,S malaria vaccine into its routine national immunization services, becoming the first country to do so after a successful malaria vaccine pilot programme carried out in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
The introduction comes as efforts gather pace to scale up vaccination against the disease in high-risk areas in Africa.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 600,000 people die of malaria in Africa yearly, with children under five making up at least 80% of those deaths.
The vaccine is being rolled out across 42 health districts in the country’s 10 regions in public and private health facilities. The launch comes after Cameroon received 331 200 doses of the vaccine in November 2023, with more doses expected in coming weeks, WHO stated.
In preparation for the launch, World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners including GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative supported the national health authorities to strengthen key vaccine introduction measures.
“The launch of the malaria vaccine marks a significant step in the prevention and control of the disease, especially in protecting children against severe disease and death.
“We’re committed to supporting the national health authorities to ensure an effective rollout of the malaria vaccine together with scale up of other malaria control measures,” WHO Representative in Cameroon, Dr Phanuel Habimana, said.
The global health body noted that in addition to Cameroon, Benin, Burkina Faso and Liberia have received the vaccine and are finalizing vaccine rollout plans.
WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and other partners are working closely with the African countries that are introducing the malaria vaccine to ensure delivery and successful rollout of the malaria vaccine.
On its X (formerly Twitter) handle, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, posted, “A historic day in the fight to #endmalaria! Cameroon has become the first of many countries to introduce the RTS,S malaria vaccine into its routine immunisation programme. We’re proud to work with partners to support the roll out of the world’s first malaria vaccine.
“We are working with 20 African countries that are aiming to introduce the vaccine in 2024. In total these 20 countries will aim to reach approximately 6.6 million children with the malaria vaccine through 2024 and 2025.
“Today represents a historic milestone as we will finally be able to offer a new tool in the fight against a disease that has impacted the African continent most of all, accounting for 95% of all deaths globally.”
Nine African countries are expected to launch the malaria vaccine this year.