Cameroonian Children Receive First Malaria Vaccine

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Children in Cameroon have started receiving the first malaria vaccine as government hopes to vaccinate about 250,000 children this year and next year.

Officials in the country have described the programme as a milestone in the decades-long fight to curb the disease in Africa.

The vaccine programme is the first of its kind in the world, and could be a game-changer on the African continent, which accounts for 95% of the world’s malaria deaths.

Parents in Cameroon were informed about the vaccine and its potential impact on the health of their children.

“We were informed about the malaria vaccine for children,” says Desirée Kamga. “I think it’s a good thing, because we were made to understand that 95% of children’s deaths are due to malaria. We were told that this vaccine will prevent the children from getting severe forms of malaria.”

The vaccine was approved by the World Health Organisation two years ago.

The WHO have acknowledged the vaccine’s limits but says it will still dramatically reduce severe infections and hospitalisations.

The vaccine is only about 30% effective, requires four doses and protection begins to fade after several months.

“The vaccine’s adverse effects have been studied for over nine years,” says Shalom Ndoula, head of the government’s Extended Malaria Programme. “The most frequently reported side effects of the malaria vaccine are fever, swelling at the injection site and irritability, which are minor and transient.”

Experts say that basic measures to stop transmission including using mosquito nets and sprays are still critical.

“We have an additional tool (the malaria vaccine) that will complete the range of tools we have for preventing malaria,” says Joel Ateba, Permanent Secretary of the Extended Malaria Programme. “The hope is that we will see a rapid decline in malaria morbidity and mortality.”

Cameroon hopes to vaccinate about 250,000 children this year and next year.