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April 14, 2024
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Uganda to Receive First-Ever Malaria Vaccine as Part of Continent-Wide Initiative

Uganda is among the twelve countries in Africa set to receive 18 million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine over the next two years. This initiative marks a significant milestone in the fight against one of the leading causes of death on the continent.

The allocation of the malaria vaccine is based on the principles outlined in the framework for the allocation of limited vaccine supply. The doses are prioritized for areas with the highest need, where the risk of malaria illness and death among children is most prevalent.

Since 2019, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been implementing the malaria vaccine through the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP), which is coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and Unitaid.

The RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, which has been administered to over 1.7 million children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi since 2019, has proven to be safe and effective. It has led to a significant reduction in severe malaria cases and child mortality. At least 28 African countries have expressed interest in receiving the malaria vaccine.

In addition to Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, the initial allocation of 18 million doses will enable nine more countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, to introduce the vaccine into their routine immunization programs for the first time.

The current vaccine allocation uses the available supply of vaccine doses through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, via UNICEF. The first doses are expected to arrive in countries during the last quarter of 2023, with the rollout scheduled to begin in early 2024.

Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, expressed optimism about the potential impact of the vaccine in the fight against malaria. He emphasized the importance of using the available doses effectively, especially as efforts are made to scale up supply and broaden the vaccine’s reach.

Malaria remains one of the deadliest diseases in Africa, claiming the lives of nearly half a million children under the age of 5 each year. It accounts for approximately 95% of global malaria cases and 96% of deaths in 2021.

The introduction of the malaria vaccine is expected to significantly reduce these figures and provide children, particularly in Africa, with a greater chance of survival. As the vaccine supply increases, more children will benefit from this life-saving advancement.

Dr. Kate O’Brien, WHO Director of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, emphasized the breakthrough nature of the malaria vaccine and its potential to improve child health and survival. She highlighted the need to ensure equitable access to the vaccine and vowed to work tirelessly to increase supply until all children at risk have access.

The allocation of limited vaccine supply was developed in consultation with expert advisors, primarily from Africa, where the burden of malaria is most severe. The framework is based on ethical principles and aims to address areas of greatest need. The implementation group includes representatives from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), UNICEF, WHO, the Gavi Secretariat, civil society, and independent advisors.

The introduction of the malaria vaccine in Uganda and other African countries is a crucial step forward in the ongoing efforts to combat this deadly disease and improve the health outcomes of children across the continent

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