Yaounde: Africa accounts for 95% of the world's malaria deaths. Meanwhile, on Monday, the African country Cameroon became the first country to launch a programme to routinely give children a new malaria vaccine as the shots are rolled out in the continent. The campaign was described by officials as a milestone in the decades-long effort to curb the mosquito-spread disease on the continent. The Central African nation hopes to vaccinate about 250,000 children this year and next year.
Cameroon is working with 20 other African countries to help them get the vaccine and those countries will hopefully immunise more than 6 million children through 2025. In Africa, there are about 250 million cases of the parasitic disease each year, including 600,000 deaths, mostly in young children. Cameroon will use the first of two recently approved malaria vaccines, known as Mosquirix. The World Health Organization endorsed the vaccine two years ago, acknowledging that even though it is imperfect, its use would still dramatically reduce severe infections and hospitalizations.
The GlaxoSmithKline-produced shot is only about 30 percent effective, requires four doses and protection begins to fade after several months. The vaccine was tested in Africa and used in pilot programs in three countries. GSK has said it can only produce about 15 million doses of Mosquirix a year and some experts believe a second malaria vaccine developed by Oxford University and approved by WHO in October might be a more practical solution. That vaccine is cheaper, requires three doses and India's Serum Institute said they could make up to 200 million doses a year. Neither of the malaria vaccines stops transmission, so other tools like bed nets and insecticidal spraying will still be critical. The malaria parasite mostly spreads to people via infected mosquitoes and can cause symptoms including fever, headaches, and chills.