The Government of Ghana has launched an expansion of the national malaria vaccine immunization programme to deliver malaria vaccines to thousands of children at high risk of malaria illness and death in Ghana.
The malaria vaccine Mosquirix– RTS,S, the first vaccine recommended by the World Health Organization(WHO) to prevent malaria and significantly reduce life-threatening severe malaria in children, is expected to save thousands of lives each year with this expansion programme.
Launching the expansion in the Sunyani East Municipality in the Bono region, the Minister of Health, Hon Kwaku Agyeman-Manu underscored the significance of the malaria vaccine an intervention towards the elimination of malaria.
“Vaccination saves children’s lives; it is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions and the best way to help children to survive,” said Hon Agyemang-Manu.
“I urge all caregivers and parents to take full advantage of this opportunity and ensure that they send their eligible children to the Child Health and Nutrition clinics popularly known as Child Welfare Clinics or CWC to be vaccinated against this deadly childhood disease,” he added.
Initial introductions of the malaria vaccine through national immunization programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have resulted in substantial reduction in deadly severe malaria, with a drop in child hospitalizations and reduction in child deaths.
“The malaria vaccine is a welcome addition to the malaria control toolbox and will offer endemic countries the opportunity to rapidly reach children in the most vulnerable places with an effective intervention through the routine immunization platform,” noted the WHO Representative to Ghana, Dr Francis Kasolo.
“It is critical for all stakeholders to spread the importance of the malaria vaccine and all childhood immunizations in protecting the lives and livelihoods of our children and future generations,” Dr Kasolo added.
In Ghana, the malaria vaccine implementation programme was launched in May 2019 in 42 districts across seven regions. As at December 2022, a total of 1.4 million doses of the vaccine had been administered to eligible children with 459,446 children receiving at least one dose and 184,418 children completing all the 4 doses.
The expansion will see the delivery of malaria vaccines to children in 51 additional districts in the seven regions.
The malaria vaccine programme is being implemented in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, with more than 1.2 million children reached with at least one dose of the malaria vaccine. The implementation programme which comes to an end in December 2023, has provided crucial information for other malaria endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa to roll out the malaria vaccine from 2024.
The implementation programme is coordinated by WHO and supported by PATH, UNICEF, GlaxoSmithKline (manufacturer of the vaccine) and other stakeholders, with funding provided by Gavi, the Global Fund and Unitaid.