Cameroon is set to become the first country in Africa to routinely administer a new malaria vaccine to children as part of a campaign aimed at curbing the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. This milestone initiative is expected to have a significant impact on reducing malaria deaths in Africa, which currently account for 95% of global malaria fatalities.
Aurelia Nguyen, the chief program officer at the Gavi vaccines alliance, which is assisting Cameroon in securing the shots, stated that the vaccination campaign will not only save lives but also provide major relief to families and the country's health system. The Gavi alliance is collaborating with 20 other African nations to facilitate access to the vaccine, with the goal of immunizing more than 6 million children across these countries by 2025.
Malaria remains a major public health concern in Africa, with approximately 250 million cases recorded each year, resulting in 600,000 deaths, primarily among young children. In an effort to combat the disease, Cameroon will be utilizing the recently approved malaria vaccine known as Mosquirix. Although the vaccine is only about 30% effective and requires four doses, it has been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a means to significantly reduce severe infections and hospitalizations.
Developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Mosquirix has undergone testing in Africa and has been implemented in pilot programs in three countries. However, due to production limitations, GSK can only manufacture around 15 million doses per year. Some experts believe that a second malaria vaccine developed by Oxford University, which was approved by the WHO in October, may offer a more practical solution. This alternative vaccine is cheaper, requires three doses, and India's Serum Institute has expressed its ability to produce up to 200 million doses annually.
While it is hoped that there will be enough of the Oxford vaccine available to commence immunizations later this year, it is important to note that neither of these malaria vaccines can stop transmission. Therefore, additional preventive measures such as the use of bed nets and insecticidal spraying will continue to be critical. Malaria is primarily transmitted to humans through infected mosquitoes and can cause symptoms such as fever, headaches, and chills.
The introduction of routine malaria vaccination in Cameroon marks a significant step forward in the fight against this deadly disease. As other African countries work towards implementing similar vaccination campaigns, it is hoped that the burden of malaria will continue to decrease, ultimately saving more lives and improving the overall health of communities across the continent.