In recent years, the world has made giant strides in the fight against malaria. If you’ve heard previously, it’s true; medical scientists have developed a vaccine against malaria.
To mark World Malaria Day, observed on April 25, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has endorsed this new vaccine. The organisation also encouraged parents to immunize their children from 6 months to 5 years against malaria.
WHO highlighted the disastrous impact of malaria on Africa, a surge rising to 228 million cases in Africa, with 602 020 reported deaths. However, the health organisation expressed concern that the vaccines are not readily available in countries that need them the most.
In her statement to mark world malaria day 2022, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said this year’s event ties in with the need to make vaccines accessible to countries ravaged by malaria.
“This year’s theme, “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives”, aligns with my call to urgently scale up innovation and the deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria while advocating for equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment, within the context of building health system resilience,” her statement read.
She also spoke about the breakthroughs made in preventing and treating malaria despite a global pandemic.
“The past year has seen significant malaria prevention and control breakthroughs despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Landmark recommendations on using the first vaccine against malaria – RTSS – were released by the WHO late last year.”
Moeti added that the “vaccine will be used to prevent malaria among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate- to high-transmission settings.”
She, however, emphasised the need to scale up the accessibility and use of the malaria vaccine, especially in Africa.
“While this is a groundbreaking advance in the development of new tools to fight this disease. With the potential to save millions of lives, supplies are currently limited. As such, it is important to ensure that the doses that are available are utilized for maximum impact while ensuring continued availability of other preventive measures to those most at risk.”
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“Malaria remains a significant public health and development challenges. In the last year, about 95% of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in the WHO/AFRO Region. Along with 602 020 reported deaths. Six of our countries, the worst-impacted by malaria in the Region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55% of cases globally and 50% of these deaths.”
However, it’s not all grim, as there’s progress on other fronts
“For example, seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) campaigns were implemented as planned in 2021, It ensures protection for an additional 11.8 million children. Indoor residual spraying was also carried out, and long-lasting insecticidal nets distributed, largely as planned.”
“Other notable achievements include the scaled implementation of RTSS vaccine pilots in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, which reached up to 900 000 children.”
“The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of people catching and dying from malaria. This requires a focus on research and on leveraging available evidence. This is to ensure that our targeted interventions are an efficient use of resources, which produce measurable results,” she said.
Moeti added that work also needs to be done in creating insecticides and drugs to combat new and complex strains of malaria.
She finished by saying malaria is much more than medical and technological interventions. Malaria affects households and communities, and these communities need to be empowered to play an active role in the fight against this disease.
World Malaria Day is observed annually on April 25.
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