The global fight against malaria took a giant stride on Monday as Cameroon rolled out the world’s first vaccine programme against the mosquito-borne disease that is projected to save tens of thousands of children’s lives per year across Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO)-approved RTS, S vaccine, developed by British drugmaker GSK, is targeting infants in Cameroon’s 42 worst-affected districts.
The central African country will be the first country to administer doses through a routine immunisation programme, following successful pilot campaigns in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
The rollout, due to start on Monday, was described by health officials as a milestone in the decades-long effort to curb malaria in the continent.
Twenty other countries aim to roll out the programme this year, according to the global vaccine alliance Gavi. Around 6.6 million children in these countries are targeted for malaria vaccination through 2024-2025.
The four-dose vaccine is only about 30% effective and protection begins to fade after several months.
GSK said it can only produce about 15 million doses a year.