Kenya launches malaria vaccine to protect children against the killer

Homabay (KENYA) September 13, 2019 – Kenya today, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), rolled out the world’s first malaria vaccine in a landmark phased introduction programme taking place in certain parts of Homabay, Kisumu, Migori, Siaya, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga, and Kakamega counties.

The country is among three in Africa that will administer the vaccine, known as RTS,S, to children up to 2 years of age, as part of the country’s routine childhood immunization programme. Other countries rolling out the vaccine are Malawi and Ghana.

Unveiling the vaccine in Nthiwa, Homabay county today the Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki said the Malaria vaccine which will be offered free of charge in all health facilities, is approved, safe and effective.

“Clinical trials have shown that when used alongside other recommended malaria interventions, fewer incidents of malaria in children and less hospital admissions will be experienced,” she added.

The vaccine can prevent 4 out of 10 malaria Infections and prevent severe malaria by more than 30 percent in the 6-24 months age group.

Accompanied by various development partners and county official Mrs. Kariuki said Kenya’s new strategic direction for malaria eradication is to have at least 80 percent of people living in malaria-risk areas having access to appropriate malaria preventive interventions.

The vaccine will be rolled out in a phased approach and will be implemented in the eight Counties with the highest Malaria burden of up to 20 percent. These are: Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori and Siaya.

Before the launch the CS visited Homabay Level Five Hospital and commissioned an MRI, Renal Unit and Blood transfusion centre. She also handed over to Homa Bay county a four-wheel drive vehicle, a motorbike and cold chain equipment, being part of a consignment of 125 fridges that have been installed across the country in the last one year, all valued at KHz. 68 Million shillings.

“This will facilitate the scale up of immunization activities,“ she said.

The selected sub-Counties in the 8 Counties will have the opportunity to initially introduce the vaccine while the remaining will introduce later.

“In order to get maximum benefits from the malaria vaccine, 4 doses will be given to children in month 6, 7, 9 and 24 of age. I therefore urge parents of children in this age group residing in the selected sub-counties to visit their nearest health facilities or selected immunization sites for vaccination to protect their loved ones from malaria,” she advised.

The CS commended the support from GAVI, the vaccine alliance, the World Health Organization, The Global Fund, UNITAID, PATH and local development Partners in Health for their role in implementation of malaria interventions.

Malaria still remains one of the top 10 causes of death in the country, and a leading killer of children under 5. The prevalence has remained high, with an incidence of up to 27% among children aged less than 5 years, especially in the lake region, where the condition is endemic.

Despite the challenges tremendous progress in the fight against malaria has been made through the scale-up of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying with insecticides (IRS), and appropriate diagnosis and treatment using artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).

“These interventions have over the last decade reduced malaria prevalence for under-fives reduced to 8 percent from 13 percent,” she said.

The World Health Organisation country representative, Dr. Rudi Eggers emphasized that Kenya is the third country in Africa to introduce the vaccine to young children in selected areas of high malaria transmission through routine immunization services.