The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the new malaria vaccine, RTS,S for use in Africa. The vaccine was proved effective six years ago and after successful immunisation trials in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana, WHO has given it a green light to be used across the content. WHO recommends that the new vaccine should be rolled out starting with Sub Saharan Africa where malaria is more severe and then to other regions with moderate to high transmissions.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said it was “a historic moment”.
“The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. It could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.” He said.
Every year, malaria kills over 400,000 people with 70% of them being African children.
The vaccine will be available in four doses intended for immunisation of children from five months to five years age. Experts on global health made recommendations based on results from trials carried out since 2019 in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya.
Using the vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives” said director general of World Health Organization (WHO).
Although preventable, malaria is among the 6 killer diseases that kill children in Africa in large numbers. More than 260 000 children under 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa die annually from malaria.
Malaria in Uganda
Uganda in particular, has the 6th highest number of annual death from malaria and transmission rates in Africa. The malaria indicator survey in 2013 reported about 16 million cases of malaria and death of over 10, 500 people in Uganda annually.
As a result, the Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic Plan (UMRSP) 2014 to 2020 was initiated with the vision to have a “malaria free Uganda”
Malaria is a major public health problem in Uganda and hinders local economic growth and development. Ministry of Health Uganda (MOH) estimates that a single family on average can spend about $9 equivalent to 3% of their annual income on treating malaria. The risk of malaria transmission is much high in Northern Uganda (representing 45%), where a study was conducted in Gulu district between 2015 to 2019 at St. Mary’s hospital Lacor. It found out that the parasite causing malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) can now resist the main line of treatment.
“The national malaria control program is planning to integrate the new malaria vaccine into childhood vaccination schedule and shall roll out in the north and central Uganda” said Dr. Jimmy Opigo the program manager.
The national malaria control program has taken mass action against malaria. Since 2014, there has been reduction in number of people who die from malaria in Uganda from 10 500 to 5000 people every year.
As the vaccine is yet to arrive, Ugandans are urged not to lose track on the measures available to prevent and treat malaria including sleeping under treated mosquito nets. The medicine used to treat malaria in Uganda varies. But, the most recommended include Artemisinin-based Combinations Therapies (ACT’s) which is administered along with other anti-malarial medicines including Chloroquine depending on the blood samples and symptoms of a particular patient.
Malaria travel tips in Uganda
Despite the malaria threat, Uganda remains one of the most attractive tourist destinations. The country receives thousands of visitors every year and these mostly come for Uganda’s breathtaking wildlife experiences like gorilla trekking, game viewing, bird-watching and primate-tracking. With a few health tips, travellers have nothing to fear while on their Uganda safari.
Use anti-malaria drugs
Pack a mosquito repellant
Sleep under a treated mosquito net while in Uganda