Malaria Vaccine Already in Kenya

On the 13th of September 2019, the Government of Kenya launched a malaria vaccine in Homa Bay County in the country’s Lake Region. Kenya is the third African country, after Ghana and Malawi to adopt the world’s first and only malaria vaccine. Children from the age of 6 months in selected parts of the country are to receive the vaccine in a phased pilot introduction.

The RTS,S, Vaccine is the first and only vaccine to lower the rate of malaria infection significantly. It has proven to be a real game-changer in the war against the disease that has threatened the lives of millions of children in Africa.

Malaria is the leading cause of deaths among children below the age of 5 in Kenya. One child succumbs to the disease every two minutes.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, is positive that spreading the RTS,S, vaccine might help save the lives of tens of thousands of children.

“Africa has witnessed a recent surge in the number of malaria cases and deaths. This threatens the gains in the fight against malaria made in the past two decades.”

“The ongoing pilots will provide the key information and data to inform a WHO policy on the broader use of the vaccine in sub-Saharan Africa. If introduced widely, the vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.”

Distinguished health officials, health advocates, and community leaders attended the launching ceremony in Homa Bay County. The county is among the eight counties in Kenya where selected areas will receive the vaccine.

Dr. Rudi Eggers, the WHO Representative to Kenya present at the event, said that vaccines can more conveniently reach and offer better protection to children.

“Vaccines are powerful tools that effectively reach and better protect the health of children who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes. This is a day to celebrate as we begin to learn more about what this vaccine can do to change the trajectory of malaria though childhood vaccination.”

Even with the availability of the malaria vaccine in Kenya, WHO stills encourages the use of alternative malaria prevention methods. They include sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying using insecticides and timely visits to health centers for malaria testing and treatment.

The phased malaria vaccine introduction is taking place in areas at higher risks of transmission of the disease. The Ministry of Health in Kenya is championing the process through the National Vaccine and Immunization Programme.

Their goal is to vaccinate about 120,000 children across the chosen introduction areas in Kenya. Besides Homa Bay County, the other selected counties are Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Kisumu, Migori, Siaya and Vihiga. Some sub-counties within the counties will introduce the vaccine into immunization schedules while others will introduce the vaccine later.

WHO is coordinating the program in collaboration with the ministries of health in Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana. It has also partnered with other in-country and international organizations such as the non-profit organization PATH and drugmaker GSK. The three key global health funding bodies: Unitaid; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are financing the program.

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