Routine malaria vaccination programme kicks off in Cameroon

Monday 22 January 2024 saw the first-ever routine malaria vaccinations take place when Cameroon introduced the RTS,S malaria vaccine into its routine immunisation programme across 42 districts.

Following a successful pilot programme, the world’s first WHO-recommended malaria vaccines are being administered through routine immunisation programmes across Africa. Cameroon is the first African country where the programme is being rolled out.

Vaccinations are taking place across 42 health districts, chosen to give the most vulnerable children with the highest transmission and mortality rates in the country an opportunity to be protected from the devastating disease.

The world’s first malaria vaccine rolls out in Cameroon (Source: Gavi)

Aurélia Nguyen, chief programme officer at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, comments on this milestone: “Malaria claims too many lives each year, more than half a million children under five in Africa alone. Today represents a historic milestone as we will finally be able to offer a new tool in the fight against a disease that has impacted the African continent most of all, accounting for 95% of all deaths globally.”

Cameroon became the first country in the world to begin routine malaria vaccinations on 22 January. The shots will be available to all eligible children who come into clinics. In a country where malaria cases and deaths have been rising since 2017, and nearly 30% of all hospital consultations are malaria-related, this is significant – vaccination will save lives, and provide major relief to families and the country’s health system.

Malaria vaccination in SOA District Hospital, Cameroon (Image: Gavi/2024/Go’tham Industry)

Programme roll out across the continent

Across the African continent, around 20 countries have plans to introduce the vaccination this year to reach over 3 million children. Some have already received shipments of doses. 

Introducing the vaccine in that many countries in 2024 will depend on when the second WHO-prequalified malaria vaccine is available and countries’ levels of preparedness. Overall, more than 30 African countries have expressed interest in a routine malaria vaccination programme.  

Malaria vaccination has been a long-time coming. As an Alliance, Gavi has invested in studies and pilots, and sent powerful market signals to manufacturers, all to expedite the availability of approved vaccines, and distributing them to those most in need. 

Alongside supplying vaccines and supporting vaccination activities, Gavi has worked with partners including the Global Fund to make sure vaccinations are delivered as part of a package of essential interventions such as bed nets.

“While Gavi is fully funded for its current strategic period, which ends in 2025, we must make sure financing is in place for our next five-year period, from 2026 to 2030, to ensure this vital work can continue into the future,” Nguyen concludes.

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za