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WHO endorses use of world’s first malaria vaccine in Africa

Africa

WHO endorses use of world’s first malaria vaccine in Africa

The World Health Organization has recommended the widespread rollout of the first malaria vaccine, in a move experts hope could save tens of thousands of children’s lives each year across Africa.

Hailing “an historic day”, the WHO’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that after a successful pilot programme in three African countries the RTS,S vaccine should be made available more widely.

“I started my career as a malaria researcher, and I longed for the day that we would have an effective vaccine against this ancient and terrible disease. And today is that day, an historic day. Today, the WHO is recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine,” Tedros said at a press conference in Geneva.

The RTS,S vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, was developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and has been administered to more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since the pilot programme began in 2019.

The vaccine, which went through lengthy clinical trials, has limited efficacy, preventing 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years of trials.

However, in August a study led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) found that when young children were given both the RTS,S and antimalarial drugs there was a 70% reduction in hospitalisation or death.

“Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” said Tedros on Wednesday. “It is safe. It significantly reduces life-threatening, severe malaria, and we estimate it to be highly cost-effective.”

He added: “Malaria has been with us for millennia, and the dream of a malaria vaccine has been a long-held, but unattainable dream. Today, the RTS,S malaria vaccine, more than 30 years in the making, changes the course of public health history. We still have a very long road to travel. But this is a long stride down that road.”

There have been fears that decades of progress towards ending malaria has stalled, with some countries, such as Eritrea and Sudan, seeing significant resurgences in recent years. In 2019, 409,000 people died from the mosquito-borne parasite disease, most of them in Africa. More than 270,000 of the victims were children under five.

But experts hope the WHO’s announcement will re-energise the race to find other vaccines, a quest that has been going on for almost a century.

Earlier this year, scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University said a vaccine they had developed had shown results that would make it the first to meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy. Over 12 months the vaccine showed up to 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso. Larger trials are now beginning, involving 4,800 children in four countries.

Thomas Breuer, GSK’s chief global health officer, said: “GSK is proud that RTS,S, our groundbreaking malaria vaccine, developed over decades by our teams and partners, can now be made available to children across sub-Saharan Africa.

“This long-awaited landmark decision can reinvigorate the fight against malaria in the region at a time when progress on malaria control has stalled. Both real-world evidence and clinical trial data show that RTS,S, alongside other malaria prevention measures, has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives.”

GSK said it was committed to supplying up to 15m doses a year at no more than 5% above the cost of production, and would now work with partners, funders and governments to support additional supply of the vaccine.

Professor Sir Brian Greenwood from the LSHTM said: “The RTS,S vaccine does not provide complete protection but this decision is testament to the global health community’s drive and vision to find a way forward. As part of a tailored approach it has great potential to reduce death and illness in high burden areas, especially when combined with other interventions such as seasonal malaria chemoprevention and bed nets, and be a huge boost to malaria control efforts.”

Gareth Jenkins, director of advocacy at the charity Malaria No More, said the announcement was “a truly historic moment” and “another critical step in building our armoury of weapons” against malaria.

Noting the role played by GSK in the development of the RTS,S vaccine, he called on the UK government to continue to invest in cutting-edge research that could “finally bring about a zero-malaria world”.

“This complex, but preventable and treatable disease, causes hundreds of millions of infections each year, risking lives and livelihoods, trapping people in poverty in some of the poorest countries in Africa, and creating ‘disease blind spots’ which threaten our own health security at home. If we save lives from malaria today, we can also protect ourselves against the diseases of tomorrow,” he said.

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Health

Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Health

Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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Health

Amid Racism Concerns, WHO Renames Monkeypox “mpox”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended ‘mpox’ as a new name for monkeypox.

In a statement on Monday, the organisation said its move was prompted by concerns of “racist and stigmatising language online”.

“Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term “mpox” as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out,” the statement reads.

“WHO, in accordance with the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) update process, held consultations to gather views from a range of experts, as well as countries and the general public, who were invited to submit suggestions for new names.

“Mpox will become a preferred term, replacing monkeypox, after a transition period of one year. This serves to mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak. It also gives time to complete the ICD update process and to update WHO publications.

“The synonym mpox will be included in the ICD-10 online in the coming days. It will be a part of the official 2023 release of ICD-11, which is the current global standard for health data, clinical documentation and statistical aggregation.

“Various advisory bodies were heard during the consultation process, including experts from the medical and scientific and classification and statistics advisory committees which constituted of representatives from government authorities of 45 different countries.

“The issue of the use of the new name in different languages was extensively discussed. The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages. If additional naming issues arise, these will be addressed via the same mechanism. Translations are usually discussed in formal collaboration with relevant government authorities and the related scientific societies.

“WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimize any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name.”

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