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Cameroon Launches First Malaria Vaccination Program for Minors

Approximately 80% of all malaria deaths in Africa occur among children under 5

Cameroon Launches First Malaria Vaccination Program for Minors

Cameroon began its new campaign to vaccinate kids for malaria – becoming the country in the world to incorporate the shot into routine medical care.

Malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitos, is one of the leading causes of death among children.

The program began on Jan. 22. The government aims to vaccinate 250,000 children during 2024 and 2025 with the newly approved malaria vaccine Mosquirix. 

“The vaccination will save lives. It will provide major relief to families and the country’s health system,” said Aurelia Nguyen, the chief program officer at Gavi – a vaccines alliance that is helping the country obtain the vaccinations, per AP News.

The alliance hopes to vaccinate a total of 6 million children in more than 20 African countries by the end of next year. An estimated 95% of the world’s fatal malaria cases are recorded in Africa annually. 

Mosquirix, also known as the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, was recommended for use by the World Health Organization in 2021. It was created by GlaxoSmithKline, a British pharmaceutical company, with the Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative.

According to CBS News:

A second vaccine, R21, developed by Oxford University and produced by the Serum Institute of India, completed a final regulatory step in December and is expected to be distributed in seven countries beginning in May or June. That vaccine's approval reassured health officials on the continent amid concerns that the eagerness of nations to participate in the program could lead to shortages.

Both vaccines, in trials, prevented half of malaria cases in the year after vaccination. Neither vaccine stops transmission of the disease.

Symptoms of the parasite-borne illness include high fever, headache, and chills. Some infected people experience jaundice, seizures, confusion, and difficulty breathing. Pregnant women who contract malaria can experience premature birth or a low birth weight. The WHO reported in December of 2023 that 80% of malaria-related deaths in Africa were recorded among children ages 5 and younger.

Malaria can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites and with medicines. Treatments can stop mild cases from getting worse,” notes the WHO. “Malaria mostly spreads to people through the bites of some infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Blood transfusion and contaminated needles may also transmit malaria.”

Symptoms typically appear 10-15 days after infection. There were 249 million cases in 2022 and 244 million in 2021.

"We have been waiting for a day like this," Mohammed Abdulaziz, the head of disease control and prevention at the Africa CDC, said at a news conference. "We are not just witnessing history, but actively participating in a transformative chapter in Africa public health history. It brings more than just hope — a reduction in the mortality and morbidity associated with malaria."

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