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Kenya to scale up malaria vaccine output in endemic lake region

The vaccine was formally launched in Kenya on September 13, 2019 in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County

In Summary

• The vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline and tested in several countries around the globe including Kenya.

• More than 45,000 children in 26 sub-counties in eight lake endemic counties have received the full course of four doses of the vaccine.

Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman cuts a cake to launch revamped Division of National Malaria Programme website and Zero Malaria Campaign Coalition in Nairobi on April 20, 2022
Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman cuts a cake to launch revamped Division of National Malaria Programme website and Zero Malaria Campaign Coalition in Nairobi on April 20, 2022
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

The Ministry of Health will from June this year scale up malaria vaccine output in the lake region where the disease is endemic. 

The roll out to more subcounties in the lake basin follows an advisory by the Kenya National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (KENITAG).

The vaccine is the world's first and only registered malaria vaccine globally. It is know as RTS,S or by its brand name Mosquirix.

It was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and tested in several countries  including Kenya.

Kenya officially launched the use of the vaccine on September 13, 2019 in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County, after successful trials across 26 subcounties in eight endemic counties in the Lake Basin region.

They include Homa Bay, Kisumu, Migori, Siaya, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga, and Kakamega.

Children receive the first dose at six months, the second dose at seven months, the third dose at nine months and the fourth and final dose at 24 months of age.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has called on parents and caregivers to ensure that their children receive all the four recommended doses of the vaccine. 

“I appeal to all parents and caregivers with children aged six months to 24 months and living in eligible malaria-endemic subcounties to visit their nearest health facilities or selected immunization sites for the children to receive the malaria vaccine for free,” Kagwe said.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday recommended widespread use of the vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission rates. 

Kenya has witnessed a significant decrease in the prevalence of malaria by almost half in a span of ten years; from 11 per cent in 2010 to six per cent in 2020.

Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman cuts a cake to launch revamped Division of National Malaria Programme website and Zero Malaria Campaign Coalition in Nairobi on April 20, 2022
Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman cuts a cake to launch revamped Division of National Malaria Programme website and Zero Malaria Campaign Coalition in Nairobi on April 20, 2022
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Data from the Health Ministry shows that 900,000 doses of the malaria vaccine have so far been administered to children in the eight endemic counties.

The data further shows that 275,000 children have received at least one out of the four scheduled doses of the vaccine.

It says more than 45,000 children have received the full course of four doses of the vaccine.

WHO country representative Joyce Onsongo said that the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and other funding agencies have committed to financially support countries to increase vaccination beyond their current status. 

“The World Health Organisation is steering forward to make sure that these vaccines are going to be equitably available to those countries that need them,” Onsongo said. 

Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman leads health stakeholders in launching revamped Division of National Malaria Programme website and Zero Malaria Campaign Coalition in Nairobi on April 20, 2022
Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman leads health stakeholders in launching revamped Division of National Malaria Programme website and Zero Malaria Campaign Coalition in Nairobi on April 20, 2022
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

According to the head Division of National Malaria Programme George Githuka, the overall prevalence of malaria in the country currently stands at six per cent with the lake endemic counties bearing the highest burden of the disease.

Data shows one in five people in these counties have malaria at any given time with the second highest disease burden area being the Coast endemic region where one in 20 people have malaria at any given time.

“In these two zones, the lake endemic and the coast endemic malaria transmission happens throughout the year and is more or less stable with peaks during the rainy season like we have now,” Githuka said.

WHO estimates that 94 per cent of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people.

This preventable disease is caused by parasites transmitted to people by the bites of infected mosquitoes. Its symptoms include fever, vomiting and fatigue.