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Cameroon Begins World’s First Malaria Vaccine Program for Children

As the new malaria vaccine is carried out across Africa, Cameroon will be the first country to routinely administer it to children.

Officials touted the campaign, which is set to begin on Monday, as a watershed moment in the continent’s decades-long struggle to combat the mosquito-borne disease that causes 95% of malaria fatalities worldwide.

“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 African nation plans to vaccinate approximately 250,000 children this year and next. Gavi said it is working with 20 other African countries to assist them receive the vaccine and that those countries will ideally immunize more than 6 million children through 2025.

Every year, around 250 million instances of the parasitic disease are reported in Africa, with 600,000 deaths, the most of which are among young children.

Cameroon will provide the first of two recently authorized malaria vaccinations, Mosquirix. The World Health Organization authorized the vaccine two years ago, recognizing that, while flawed, its usage would significantly reduce serious infections and hospitalizations.

The GlaxoSmithKline shot is only around 30% effective, requires four doses, and the protection fades after a few months. The vaccine was tested in Africa and implemented in three countries as pilot projects.

GSK has stated that it can only produce roughly 15 million doses of Mosquirix per year, and some experts believe that a second malaria vaccine created by Oxford University and authorized by WHO in October may be a more viable answer. That vaccine is less expensive, takes three doses, and the Serum Institute of India estimates it could produce up to 200 million doses each year.

Gavi’s Nguyen expressed hope that enough Oxford vaccinations would be ready to begin immunizing individuals later this year.

Because neither malaria vaccine prevents transmission, other measures such as bed nets and insecticidal spraying will remain necessary. The malaria parasite spreads to humans mostly by infected mosquitos and can cause fever, headaches, and chills.

Written by PH

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