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Cameroon Leads the Way in Malaria Vaccination Rollout

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On 19 February 2023, Cameroon became the first country to introduce the RTS,S malaria vaccine into its routine national immunisation programme outside of the initial pilot programme. This milestone marks a major advancement in the fight against malaria in Africa. It also balances out the seemingly recent focus on entertainment, like sites betinasia.com as people feel less attention has been paid to the health sector.

Over 42 health districts across Cameroon’s 10 regions are now offering the four-dose vaccine regimen to children starting at six months of age in both public and private facilities. An initial shipment of 331,200 doses arrived in November 2022, with more expected in the coming weeks to vaccinate the over 500,000 children born annually in the country.  

Cameroon was selected by health authorities due to meeting criteria around safety, efficacy, and quality assurance. Dr Shalom Ndoula, head of Cameroon’s Expanded Programme on Immunization, highlighted that the vaccine serves as an “additional tool for malaria control” rather than a standalone solution. It will specifically help reduce severe malaria cases and deaths among Cameroon’s most vulnerable population: children under 5.

The scale of malaria in Cameroon

In 2021 alone, Cameroon recorded over three million malaria cases and 3,800 deaths. Though prevalence has declined over the years thanks to improved prevention and control measures, malaria remains one of Cameroon’s top health priorities.  

Extensive preparation and coordination involving the World Health Organization (WHO), GAVI, UNICEF, Africa CDC, and other partners have strengthened Cameroon’s capacity for effective vaccine introduction. This included adopting guidelines, integrating delivery into routine childhood immunization schedules, supply chain improvements, healthcare worker training, public awareness campaigns, and robust monitoring systems.

Community education and demand generation will be vital to achieving high coverage rates across all four RTS,S doses for long-lasting protection. Helene, a mother who prioritized vaccinating her twins, explained, “I’ve seen how harmful malaria can be. I’m committed to ensuring my children get all four doses of the vaccine.”

The RTS,S rollout builds on the success of the multi-country Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) across Ghana, Kenya and Malawi over the past four years. MVIP led to an estimated 13% drop in all-cause mortality for vaccinated children under five years old, plus fewer malaria infections, hospitalizations and severe malaria cases.  

Following Cameroon’s lead, Benin, Burkina Faso and Liberia plan to introduce the vaccine this year after receiving initial shipments. WHO and partners provide close support across the continent to enable smooth vaccine launches.

Though the RTS,S vaccine is not 100% effective against malaria, it serves as a vital addition to existing interventions like insecticide-treated nets, prompt diagnosis and treatment, chemoprevention, and mosquito control. Vaccination will provide crucial protection from severe disease and death among the over 200 million malaria cases and 600,000 deaths recorded globally last year.

As the first routine rollout country, Cameroon has set an important precedent for malaria-endemic regions. Widespread vaccination could be a game-changer, accelerating progress towards global targets for a 90% reduction in mortality and morbidity by 2030. All eyes are on Cameroon in these early days of the program to build evidence and lessons for introducing the malaria vaccine at scale across Africa, where it is most urgently needed to save lives.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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