Malaria vaccine is good news for the poor – Prof Binka
Professor Fred Binka, a Clinical Epidemiologist at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, says the World Health Organisation’s approval of the use of the Mosquirix Malaria Vaccine in Africa is good news, especially for the poor.
“…In our country, it is the poor that are exposed to mosquito bites and malaria. The rich are able to protect themselves. So we are happy with this good news that after 30 years we are getting the tools to do away with malaria like we did for measles,” he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), this month; October 2021, approved the use of Mosquirix Malaria Vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), for use among children under-five in Africa to help reduce the malaria burden.
Prof Binka said malaria, regarded as a disease of the poor, was still the leading cause of hospital admission among children under-five and the number one cause of deaths in Ghana and in most African countries, adding that the intervention was a great achievement.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, he said almost half of the people who visited health facilities in Ghana had malaria, with the figure higher for children, and said there could not be any better news for the continent amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mosquirix Malaria Vaccine was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015.
The WHO’s approval for Africa follows successful pilot programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, which reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.
Data indicate that the vaccine, combined with administration of antimalarial therapies, lowers clinical episodes of the disease, hospital admissions with severe malaria, and deaths by around 70 per cent.
Prof Binka said it was the first vaccine aimed at a parasitic infection and cost effective in view of the socio-economic impact malaria had on families, communities and nations.
He said the vaccine was expected to be incorporated into the routine immunisation process, with children, especially taking a jab in the first one month, six months, nine months and after two years for the fourth dose.
Prof Binka said from the pilot studies conducted, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi had all demonstrated that the vaccines could reduce severe illness to about 50 per cent, reduce the number of children who got affected to about 40 per cent as well as the number of deaths.
He said a successful administration of the vaccine meant a fewer out-patients attendance, good school attendance for pupils and students, and more working hours for parents.
Prof Binka said from experience, mothers were enthusiastic about the vaccine and ready for it and urged government to ensure that the country got high coverage when finally rolled out.
He said the vaccine gave partial protection hence the need for parents to ensure that children continued to sleep under treated bed nets even after vaccination.
Dr Keziah Malm, the Programmes Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme, said the approval of the vaccine for children in Africa meant the pilot had produced positive results.
She said Mosquirix would cut down about 100,000 malaria admissions annually when rolled out.
Ghana had administered three doses of the vaccine to 230,000 children in parts of the Brong Ahafo, Central, Volta and Upper East regions, where the vaccine pilot was done.
Dr Malm said the pilot gave the assurance that the vaccine was safe for use, however, the interval between administration of the third and fourth doses posed a challenge, which led to a lower administration of the fourth.
She said it was difficult to manage malaria with just one intervention, adding: “The vaccine is an added-on intervention to all other malaria prevention interventions, and this will make an impact.”
She encouraged mothers to ensure that their children were vaccinated during the rollout.
The Mosquirix Malaria Vaccine is the result of 30 years of research, and a product transfer, including technology transfer for long-term antigen production at Bharat Biotech of India.