Current Affairs

After Cameroon, Uganda readies to roll out malaria vaccine

Kampala, (UG): Goverment of Uganda through the Ministry of Health has revealed that vaccination of children against Malaria is set to start in October this year, benchmarking on Cameroon, who Monday rolled out the world’s first-ever vaccination against the disease.

According to Dr Michael Baganizi who heads the immunisation programme at the health ministry, the vaccination will come in four doses at six, seven, eight and 18 months

“Uganda has planned to begin (malaria vaccinations) in October. It is four doses at six, seven, eight and 18 months,” Dr Baganizi said while commenting on the move by Cameroon to start administering the RTS, S malaria vaccine as part of its routine national immunisation services.

The start of the exercise on Monday in Cameroon, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement the same day, makes the country the first to do so outside the malaria vaccine pilot programme that was carried out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. The vaccinations follow a four-dose schedule.

Dr Phanuel Habimana, WHO representative in Cameroon, said in the statement that 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.”

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“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,” the WHO Representative added.

The launch, WHO noted, happened after Cameroon received 331,200 doses of the vaccine in November 2023.

The WHO quoted the Permanent Secretary of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in Cameroon, Dr Shalom Ndoula, as saying: “The vaccine is an additional tool for malaria control. It has been chosen by the country based on its pre-qualification, ensuring guaranteed quality, efficacy and safety for inclusion in the vaccination programme. It will specifically target all children aged six months as of 31 December 2023.”

The drive is being supported by the WHO and other partners, including GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, Unicef, Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

Dr Catherine Maiteki, the deputy manager for the Malaria Control Programme in the ministry also said last year that their request for RTS,S malaria vaccines had been approved by GAVI ahead of the planned rollout this year. She said a total of one million doses of RTS,S would be funded by GAVI for the country’s first round of malaria vaccination.

“The [malaria] vaccine is safe and effective in preventing severe disease. The vaccine will be given to children below five years,” Dr Maiteki said then.

The Permanent Secretary in the Health ministry, Dr Diana Atwine, had last year indicated that the malaria vaccinations would start early this year. It is unclear why the country will delay to start the exercise.

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“We are going to introduce a vaccine early next year. This vaccine targets the severity of the disease, particularly in children because they are the most hit by malaria but as the vaccine becomes more available, we shall even increase the age group,” she said in an interview in November last year.

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