Ghana Launches Malaria Vaccine Pilot Programme

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Sequel to the introduction of the world’s first malaria vaccine in Malawi, a couple of days ago, which witnessed a landmark celebration, Ghana has followed suit in unveiling the malaria vaccine for the immunisation of children up to two years of age.

As stated in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO)’s report, Ghana is one of three African countries in which the vaccine, known as RTS,S, will be made available for the immunisation of children. Now with the vaccine already unveiled in Ghana, Kenya is the next to witness its launch of the vaccine.

The release revealed that the Ghana-led phase of vaccine introduction, was lauded by WHO’s officials in the country, and the occasion was graced by  Top health officials, WHO representatives, community leaders, and mothers and children gathered on 30 April 2019 to officially begin the vaccine rollout.

Ghana Launches Malaria Vaccine Pilot Programme
One of the Ghanaian children being immunised at the programme. (Photo Credit: WHO)

It was also stated that the Ghana-led vaccine pilot programme was supported by WHO, national and global health partners.

Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes; most of these deaths are in Africa. In Ghana, about 20 percent of all children have malaria parasites in their blood.

Celebrating the feat, the WHO Representative for Ghana, Dr Owen Kaluwa. Said, “This breakthrough in malaria control caps a 30-year effort to develop a vaccine with proven results to help prevent malaria in young children. The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives.”

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He also congratulated the Ministry of Health of Ghana for its commitment to the RTS,S vaccine pilot and what it could mean to improve child health and malaria control.

Dr Kaluwa further explained the essence of the vaccine, saying : “The pilot programme is designed to generate evidence and experience to inform WHO policy recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S malaria vaccine. It will look at reductions in child deaths; vaccine uptake, including whether parents bring their children on time for the four required doses; and vaccine safety in the context of routine use.

“The vaccine is a complementary malaria control tool – to be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, including the routine use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and the timely use of malaria testing and treatment”.

The report highlighted the distinguished speakers that participated in the event, including the Director General of the Ghana Health Service Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare. Deputy Minister of Health the Honorable Alexander K. K. Abban gave keynote remarks and then officially announced the vaccine pilot underway.

Meanwhile Nigerian pharmacists are already asking the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) reasons for the absence of Nigeria, among the WHO list of African countries to introduce the vaccine.

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The healthcare practitioners who expressed their concerns towards malaria burden in Nigeria, during the World Malaria Day programme, organised by AHAPN national in conjunction with the Lagos State branch, noted that Nigeria, having the highest burden of malaria in Sub –Saharan Africa, ought to be part of the first set of countries to benefit from the pilot vaccine programme, but the absence of the country from the list, does not mean well for Nigeria.

Speaking with journalists at the event, the National Chairman, AHAPN, Pharm. Kingsley Amibor, also expressed his disappointment at the development. “I was equally surprise, why Nigeria was missing on the list, and I guess the Federal Ministry of Health should give us some explanations on that, because with the highest burden of malaria in Nigeria, Nigeria should be among the first countries to run the pilot vaccine test”.

For the meantime, he said there is need for governments to set up preventive measures at eliminating malaria. There is need for vector control, while the governments must ensure the provision of insecticides treated nets to all at affordable cost, because the parasites operates more at night, thus if we can prevent mosquito bites, we can actually prevent malaria.

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