WHO announces funding to roll-out for first-ever malaria vaccine in Africa

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The World Health Organization on Thursday unveiled its funding programme for the roll-out of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine to be powered by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

On Thursday, the global health body, alongside Gavi and other health specialists, discussed the importance of the malaria vaccine to Africa. 

The online press briefing was led by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa and monitored by Peoples Gazette.

“The news of Gavi’s multi-million dollar funding to countries, to expand access to the world’s only malaria vaccine, marks a key advance in the fight against one of Africa’s most severe public health threats,” Dr Moeti said. “This financial support from Gavi provides a landmark opportunity for countries to introduce, or further, the rollout of the malaria vaccine. It will initially benefit Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi – the three countries that began piloting delivery of the vaccine in 2019 – before being expanded to other eligible endemic countries.”

Dr Moeti was joined by Dr Akpaka Kalu, Team Lead, Strategic Planning and Policy, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases Cluster; Dr Opeayo Ogundiran, Epidemiology Pillar Lead for the Regional COVID-19 Response; Dr Phionah Atuhebwe, Medical Officer, New Vaccines; and Dr Solomon Woldetsadik, Emergency Response Officer.

Gavi has made available $155.7 million for the 2022–2025 period. The program has also been supported by a $56 million investment through a “de-risk” agreement with manufacturer GSK and innovative financing partner MedAccess. 

The vaccine group indicated that the first application deadline is slated for September 2022. A second window open to other eligible malaria-endemic countries will close in January 2023.

The program is to facilitate increased vaccine access to children at high risk of illness and death from malaria, starting with Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, where more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered. 

The program will continue in the pilot countries to understand the value of the fourth vaccine dose, and to measure longer-term impact on child mortality rates.

Dr Moeti maintained that Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa, noting that over 260 000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.

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