The approval of the malaria vaccine for children in Africa by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised hope for the continent as it will save 264,000 children annually.
In Nigeria alone, access to the vaccine will save over 80,000 children annually, health experts have said.
A professor and consultant, medical parasitologist at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Wellington Oyibo, told LEADERSHIP that more than 80,000 children die of malaria annually in Nigeria.
WHO report indicates that globally, malaria claims 274,000 children under five years every year, with 750 dying daily and one in every two-minute.
The global health body says that malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 260,000 African children under the age of five dying from malaria annually.
LEADERSHIP checks revealed that malaria contributes to over 40,000 maternal deaths annually in Nigeria, and also the number one cause of absenteeism, resulting in loss of productivity at work and in school.
The World Malaria Report (WMR-2020) indicates that Nigeria contributes 27 per cent of the global malaria cases and 23 per cent of global malaria deaths.
Considering the threat of malaria to the lives of Africans, especially children, the parasitologist told LEADERSHIP that this is a joyous moment in that children in Africa will no longer die of malaria.
First piloted in 2019, the vaccine named RTS,S/A01 is the world’s first malaria vaccine shown to provide partial protection against the disease in under-five children, and is the first-ever vaccine against a human parasite recommended for use by WHO.
Oyibo said, “Our children are going to be protected from malaria because from the trial, it was demonstrated that at least four out of 10 children will be protected from death, while about six out of 10 will not suffer from severe forms of malaria.”
He said Nigeria’s mortality rate due to malaria is the highest in the world, adding that in the past 10 years, more than 80,000 deaths were recorded annually from malaria.
In terms of the country’s preparedness in procuring the vaccine for immediate rollout, Oyibo said the National Malaria Elimination Programme and the Ned Nwoko Malaria Eradication Project are on top of it.
He, however, appealed to the private sector to support the procurement of the vaccine, just as the sector supported in the fight against COVID-19 virus. “Our children need that support. Let’s join hands to eradicate malaria,” he added.
Also, the president, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah. told LEADERSHIP that the vaccine is a historic achievement in the science world.
Ujah however expressed disappointment that Nigeria was not selected in the trial stages. “I know that Jos University Teaching Hospital was actively involved in the research for malaria vaccine, but I was shocked that Nigeria was not selected in the trial. Nevertheless, we are grateful for the success of the trial, so we congratulate the world for this great achievement.”
He however tasked the federal government through the ministry of health to make arrangements for the procurement of the vaccine, as the parasite still kills more children than COVID-19 virus.
A professor of virology at Redeemer’s University, Ogun State, Oyewale Tomori, said the government must be proactive in the procurement of the malaria vaccine.
He said, “Malaria vaccine must be on the front burner, the government must as a matter of urgency raise funds to get the vaccine. We also appeal to the private sector to join forces with the government to ensure our children are protected against the killer disease.
“We can’t wait for GAVI or international donors to procure this vaccine for us. Nigeria must think of procuring the vaccine. The government may not be able to do this alone, hence the reason I am appealing to the private sector to step in. Now that we have a vaccine against malaria, we need to go and procure it,” Tomori said.