By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
World Health Organisation (WHO) has commended the government of Malawi for the launch of the world’s first malaria vaccine in a landmark pilot programme today.
“We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives a promising tool to get there,” WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus declared.
He said the malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives.
WHO stated that Malawi is the first of the three African countries in which the vaccine known as RTS,S would be made available to children up to two years of age.
“Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks,” WHO said.
The organisation expressed concern that Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes.
According to it, most of these deaths are in Africa where more than 250,000 children die from the disease every year.
Children under 5 are at the greatest risk of malaria’s life-threatening complications, the global authority on public health said.
WHO disclosed that worldwide malaria kills 435,000 people a year, most of them children.
Ghebreyesus said that there were tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years.
He, however, regretted that progress was stalled and even reversed in some areas.
“Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given.The poorest children suffer the most and are at the highest risk of death,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Moeti expressed confidence in the power of vaccine to prevent killer diseases and reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.