Nigerian Advocates Call for Rapid Roll-out of Malaria Vaccines

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Days ago, Semina Samuel’s two-year old son woke up with a burning fever. She quickly took him to the community clinic where malaria was detected.

Samuel says this is the second time this month alone that she’s had to treat her son for the disease.

“We live close to the bush and there’s dust bin and stagnant water here,” Samuel said. “That’s what attracts the mosquitoes … we spent the night at the at the hospital and he was given some drugs.”

Health experts said Nigeria recorded more than 200,000 deaths from over 61 million cases of malaria last year.

The World Health Organization says 96% of malaria deaths occur in Africa and that Nigeria alone accounts for 31.9% of them. Children under five years old are the most vulnerable.

Last year, the WHO launched the first malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, after tests showed it was safe and effective.

In a WHO broadcast Monday, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for the vaccine to be adopted across Africa. “Today, WHO is recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine. This is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control.”

However, the WHO warns that a vaccine roll-out could face hesitancy and accessibility issues.

Olanrewaju Akintobi is a program director at Wellahealth, a Nigerian tech-startup focusing on rapid malaria testing and treatment.

“If you’re introducing a new vaccine, it still has to go through the community acceptance process for them to really be sure of what you’re giving, and the vaccine is still at the pilot phase,” Akintobi said. “Is it going to be a one-time thing or a continuous vaccination process? Because mosquitoes are still very much around.”

Akintobi said vaccines do not eliminate the need for anti-malaria drugs just yet.

“I think beyond the vaccine, there’s still need for us to have a scalable system for people to have access to the medication, access to quality treatment when malaria cases happen and making sure there’s a quality health care service across board,” Akintobi said.

Pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) agreed to donate 10 million doses of Mosquirix for the pilot study nations and has pledged a yearly output of 15 million doses. But experts say more doses will be needed every year to reach the millions in need.



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