MALAWI WELCOMES MALARIA VACCINE
We ask: Considering that the malaria vaccine is coming amid the coronavirus, where we have seen great hesitancy at Covid 19 vaccines, how are you going to deal with this vaccine?
Recently, WHO recommending 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.
The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.
AfricaBrief’s Editor-in-Chief, Winston Mwale (WM) caught up with the Spokesperson in the Ministry of Health in Malawi, Adrian Chikumbe (AC), for the government’s reaction to the news.
WM: First, what is your reaction to the news that, finally, a malaria vaccine that was trialed in Malawi, other African countries, has been given a go-ahead by the WHO?
AC: We are excited that after a phased introduction of the vaccine, WHO has finally given a nod for us to roll out the vaccine to the rest of the districts in the country.
We are happy because the remarkable decline in malaria incidence that was observed in the districts the vaccine was being piloted will now be spread across the country.
WM: What has been the role of Malawi in this vaccine, really?
AC: After successful trials in 2015, countries including Malawi applied to be enlisted on the initial countries the vaccine would be piloted. Due to our sustained impressive track record in immunization coverage, Malawi was given a chance to pilot the vaccine in 11 districts.
WM: Why, as a country, should we be excited by the news?
AC: We have all the reasons to be excited about this because malaria continues to be the number one cause for illnesses and deaths among under-fives and therefore welcome any intervention that can effectively contribute to the declining of malaria incidence.
WM: Considering that the malaria vaccine is coming amid the coronavirus, where we have seen great hesitancy at Covid 19 vaccines, how are you going to convince Malawians to have their children vaccinated against malaria?
AC: We have been administering RTSS (the current malaria vaccine) for two years now and demand for the vaccine has always been high. However, each time we are introducing a new vaccine we always develop appropriate messages and materials to help in creating and increasing public awareness on the same.
WM: How soon do you think countries like Malawi will start getting the malaria vaccine?
AC: Immediately more vaccines come and that should
WM: Do you think we’ll be prioritized considering that the vaccine was trialed in the country?
AC: Now that we have a go-ahead on the rollout of the vaccine to all districts, we will have to change our policy and now include RTSS on our current list of childhood vaccines and then routinize it.
We already have partners ready to support us as we roll it out countrywide.