The RTS, S/AS01 vaccine, the first Malaria Vaccine developed by the World Health Organization with support from the Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC), and other countries, is not to wipe off other Malaria tools and interventions, but to complement it.
Mr John Bawa, the African Lead, Vaccine Implementation, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), who gave the explanation at the commemoration of the 2022 World Malaria Day, explained that Ghana had achieved a lot of strides with the introduction of the vaccine, hence, implored all to embrace it.
This year’s commemoration is on the theme: “Harness Innovation to Reduce the Malaria Disease Burden and Save Lives.”
The hybrid (virtual and physical) commemoration was organized by the KHRC with support from the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) at Kintampo in the Bono East Region.
The World Health Organization in October 2021 expanded the use of the RTS,S/AS01 among children living in regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.
It invited Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to take part in its coordinated malaria vaccine implementation programme, adding that, when implemented broadly, the vaccine could save the lives of tens of thousands each year.
Speaking on the journey so far with Malaria vaccines in the context of comprehensive national malaria control plans, Mr Bawa said more than one million children, since 2019, had been reached with at least one dose of the malaria vaccine through the pilot study.
These numbers indicated strong community demand and the capacity of childhood vaccination platforms to effectively deliver the vaccine to children.
In Ghana, he said about 36,000 children have received at least one dose of the vaccine with uptake of around 60 per cent.
On the safety and impact of the vaccine, the African Lead said there was no evidence in the pilot evaluations that the safety signals seen in the Phase three trial were related to the vaccine.
Mr Bawa noted that the introduction of the vaccine resulted in a substantial and statistically significant reduction in hospitalized severe malaria and hospitalization with malaria infection.
It was also confirmed that the vaccine could have substantial added benefits to reduce child illness and death from malaria.
Among the areas that Ghana chalked success were having close to 80 per cent of districts achieving at least 60 per cent coverage for the vaccine, the establishment of a Joint Malaria Vaccine safety Committee by the Food and Drugs Authority, sustained performance and uptake during the COVID-19 and stock-outs and concurrent evaluations (costing, safety, mortality, household, health utilization survey).
Dr Kwaku Poku Asante, the Director, KHRC, said Malaria led to mortality in children as well as anaemia, which affected their brain development, and thinking and caused functional movement disorders.
He expressed contentment about the transformation made to overcome the burden years back, where malaria threatened children’s lives to an extent that they needed blood transfusions to survive.
“It is, therefore, the good news that we have been able to move children who sleep under treated mosquito nets from 10 per cent to 60 and 70 per cent,” he said.
Dr Asante admonished the public to keep their environments clean and seek medical attention whenever they felt unwell with symptoms of malaria.
Mr Thomas Gyan, speaking on the Malaria Vaccine Pilot Evaluation, said the vaccine introduction had helped to reduce hospital admission for any cause, with a positive malaria test, severe malaria and reduced mortality due to all causes except injury.