Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission. WHO reported that this came based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.
According to Punch, health experts in Nigeria, including Prof. Wellington Oyibo, a consultant parasitologist at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Idi-Araba, and Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, the President of the Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, has stated that the Federal Government has disclosed that it is considering procuring the vaccine.
Dr Oyibo whilst commenting on the breakthrough, emphasized the need for the government to invest in malaria prevention interventions.
He said, “Although some positive and valuable effects of the malaria vaccine have been recorded, the caveat is that it must be used alongside other interventions such as integrated vector management, effective case management, malaria prevention in pregnancy and seasonal malaria chemoprevention. What this means is that investment in these interventions must continue and government and all of us will have to keep making these interventions available. The vaccine prevented death in every four out of 10 children and this is important for us in a country where annual deaths to malaria are over 70,000 every year.”
Professor Oladapo Ashiru, the President of the AMSN, called on Nigerians to intensify their efforts to enforce environmental hygiene and sanitation. He also added that the vaccine would help reduce malaria-related deaths in Nigeria.
Prof Marycelin Baba, a professor of Medical Virology at the University of Maiduguri said there was a high possibility of the vaccine reducing deaths. Baba blamed the Federal Government’s lack of willingness for the inability of the country to produce a vaccine adding that, nepotism and high levels of corruption were responsible for Nigeria’s unpreparedness in the development of vaccines.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, The WHO Director-General at a news conference on mentioned that the organisation had endorsed the RTS, S/AS01 (RTS, S) malaria vaccine for children in Africa.
In his words, he said “This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
According to the WHO, malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illnesses and death in sub- Saharan African killing more than 260,000 children annually.