Malawi expands access to the malaria vaccine
Lilongwe, Malawi. The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulates the Government of Malawi for the launch of expanded delivery of the first malaria vaccine – RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) – which will enable thousands more children at high risk of malaria illness and death to benefit from the additional malaria prevention.
The RTS,S malaria vaccine is the first vaccine recommended for use to prevent malaria and significantly reduces life-threatening severe malaria in children. If implemented broadly it could save tens of thousands of lives each year.
In his keynote remarks at the launch, held in Mchinji District, the Honorable Secretary for Health Dr Charles Mwansambo said the expansion of malaria vaccination “has an important role in the history of the fight against malaria, not only in Malawi but globally.”
“The Malawi Government through the Ministry of Health would like to affirm its commitment to continue supporting malaria control interventions in the country, including the expansion of this vaccine to areas not currently benefitting from the vaccine,” he said.
“We applaud Malawi’s leadership to move this breakthrough malaria vaccine forward. Malawi was the first country in the world to launch the routine use of the malaria vaccine in pilot implementation three years ago, and today it is the first to expand access to the life-saving vaccine,” said WHO Representative Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo.
“We are committed to continuing to work with the Government of Malawi and African and global health partners to increase access to the vaccine in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission to maximize its effects,” she said.
The Malawi Ministry of Health launched the pilot implementation of the malaria vaccine in 11 districts in April 2019, followed by Ghana and then Kenya. To date, more than 400 000 children in Malawi have received at least one dose of the malaria vaccine; more than 1.2 million children have been reached with the malaria vaccine across the three pilot countries in Africa.
The malaria vaccine expansion will start first with areas that were not receiving the vaccine in the 11 pilot districts of Mangochi, Balaka, Machinga, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe, Mchinji, Lilongwe, Ntchisi, NkhataBay, and Karonga.
The malaria vaccine is now one of the WHO recommended interventions to prevent malaria in children, along with other interventions such as long-lasting insecticide treated bed-nets, indoor residual spraying and malaria chemoprevention strategies.
The pilots will continue in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya through 2023 to understand the added value of the fourth vaccine dose, and to measure the longer-term impact of the vaccine on child deaths.
The pilot programme is coordinated by WHO and supported by PATH, UNICEF, GSK and other partners, with funding provided by Gavi; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and Unitaid.
WHO Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme
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