Tag Archives: immunisation

The World’s First Malaria Vaccine to Be Rolled Out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018

Malaria is one of the world’s most deadly diseases even though it is highly preventable and treatable. Malaria causes approximately 881,000 deaths every year, with nine out of ten deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

Effective control and treatment of malaria has been very challenging and efforts have been made to reduce the burden of malaria in an integrated approach that combines preventative measures, such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS), with improved access to effective anti-malarial drugs.

However, malaria is a disease that stems from and causes poverty, and many at-risk populations live in extremely destitute, remote areas. Poor, rural families are the least likely to have access to these preventative measures that are fundamental to malaria control, and may live kilometres from the nearest healthcare facility. They are also less able to afford treatment once infection has occurred.

In addition to the human cost of malaria, the economic burden of the disease is vast. It is estimated that malaria costs African countries more than US$12 billion every year in direct losses, even though the disease could be controlled for a fraction of that sum. For Nigeria alone the direct loss to the economy is estimated at GBP530 million annually.

Up to 40% of African health budgets are spent on malaria each year, and on average, a malaria-stricken family loses a quarter of its income through loss of earnings and the cost of treating and preventing the disease. Malaria causes an average loss of 1.3% of economic growth per year in Africa.

There is a ray of hope in Africa as the world first malaria vaccine is to be rolled out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018. This injectable vaccine known as “RTS,S or Mosquirix” was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will be offered for babies and children in high risk areas as part of real life trials as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In clinical trials it is proved only partially effective, and it needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but it is the first-regulator-approved vaccine against the mosquito- borne disease. The WHO, who is in process of assessing whether to add the shot to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, has said it firsts wants to see the results of on-the ground testing in a pilot programme.

“Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s African regional director said in a statement as the three pilot countries were announced.

“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”

Global efforts in the last 15 years cut the malaria toll by 62 percent between 2000 and 2015. The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the Mosquirix’s protective effect in children aged 5 to 17 months can be replicated in real life. It will also assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses needed and explore the vaccine’s potential role in reducing the number of children killed by the disease.

The WHO said Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programmes, wide use of bed-nets and well-functioning immunization programmes.

Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots, the WHO said, with high malaria areas getting priority since these are where experts expect to see most benefit from the use of the vaccine.  The vaccine was developed by GSK in partnership with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The WHO said in November it had secured full funding for the first phase of the RTS,S pilots, with 15 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and up to 27.5 million and 9.6 million respectively from the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and UNITAID for the first four years of the programme.

This significant development will help to address the continuing challenges presented by malaria in Africa in the years ahead and hopefully bring an end to this deadly disease.

Sources:

The Hindu, April 25, 2017. 

Kokwaro G. (2009) Ongoing challenges in the management of malaria. Malaria Journal, 8(Suppl 1):S2 doi:10.1186/1475-2875-8-S1-S2.

Nigeria Finalises Plans to Produce Yellow Fever Vaccines Locally

As part of activities to mark the World Immunisation Week, April 24 to 30, the Federal Government of Nigeria has advanced plans to locally produce essential vaccines in the country and refurbish the moribund in Yaba, Lagos.

Also, Nigeria has began the ‘switch’ from using trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) in the routine immunization programme. The National Switch Committee commenced the historic switch in Nigeria on April 19, 2016, and is expected to complete the process and submit report to the World Health Organisation on May 2, 2016.

Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement ahead of the World Immunisation Week, noted: “Immunization averts two to three million deaths annually; however, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves. Today, an estimated 18.7 million infants – nearly one in five children – worldwide are still missing routine immunizations for preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.”

Every year the world specifically dedicates a week in April 24 to 30 to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. The Global theme for 2016 is the same as that for 2015, which is “Close the Immunization Gap campaign.” For WHO Afro regional countries the week is named “Africa Vaccination week-AVW” and the theme for 2016 is “Close the Immunization gaps. Stay polio free!”

Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad, told The Guardian in an exclusive interview to mark the World Immunisation Week that the Federal Government’s plan to locally produce vaccines is still ongoing.

Muhammad said: “Government plan is still very much on the table. With the coming of this new administration and on the need to be self-sufficient in local vaccine manufacturing, another round of meeting chaired by the Minister of Health (HMH) and attended by the Minister of State for Health (HMSH), Permanent Secretary (PS), NPHCDA and May and Baker (M&B) pharmaceuticals took place in March 2016, in Abuja in order to explore avenues to move this project forward. The FMOH is providing leadership to make it happen.”

On the planned resuscitation of Yellow Fever (YF) vaccine plant in Yaba, Lagos, the NPHCDA boss said: “The Government of Nigeria plan and in line with the global best practices is to resuscitate Yaba YF vaccine plant using a Public-Private Partnership arrangement. Since 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the FMoH and a local pharmaceutical company, May & Baker that was followed by the signing of a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) in 2007.
This shows how serious the country is committed to in the production of YF both for our domestic use and subsequently for export.”

WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said: “Last year immunization led to some notable wins in the fight against polio, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus.

“But they were isolated wins. Polio was eliminated in one country (Nigeria), tetanus in three, and rubella in one geographical region. The challenge now is to make gains like this the norm.”

Source: The Guardian