Cameroon receives first shipment of GSK's Mosquirix malaria vaccine.
A batch of 331,200 doses of the vaccine – also known as RTS,S – was offloaded at Yaounde's Nsimalen International Airport, making Cameroon the first African country to receive the vaccine after the pilot programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
Malaria remains one of Africa's deadliest diseases, according to the World Health Organization, killing nearly half a million children under the age of five, and accounting for approximately 95% of global malaria cases in 2021.
The initial consignment of vaccines will go to 42 out of 203 health districts in the country, Cameroon's health minister Manaouda Malachie said.
"We lose many compatriots who die because of this disease. Today, we have a vaccine which comes to add to the panoply of measures already rolled out," Malachie told reporters at Nsimalen.
"This is another breakthrough moment for malaria vaccines and malaria control, and a ray of light in a dark time for so many vulnerable children in the world. The delivery of malaria vaccines to new countries across Africa will offer life-saving protection to millions of children at risk of malaria," said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "But we must not stop here. Together, we must find the will and the resources to bring malaria vaccines to scale, so more children can live longer, healthier lives.”
"This is a significant advancement towards scaling up malaria vaccination in the region. The vaccine, which protects children from the severe forms of the disease, is a vital addition to the existing set of malaria prevention tools and will help bolster our efforts to reverse the rising trend in cases and further reduce deaths," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Inoculations will begin next month or early next year, according to a health official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
GSK says more than 1.7 million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have already received at least one dose of the shot, and that it would be rolled out in another nine malaria-endemic countries, of which Cameroon is one, from early next year.
UNICEF representative Juliette Haenni said it was a historic moment to protect children.
"Children are the most concerned. The ones we are targeting are the six to 24 months old – the most vulnerable," Haenni said.
The WHO says a second malaria vaccine developed by Britain's University of Oxford, R21/Matrix-M, will become available by mid-2024.