Malaria : 12 African countries to benefit from life saving vaccine

Gavi announced a total of 18 million malaria vaccine doses will be distributed to 12 African countries for the period between 2023-2025. 

  • GSK developed a novel Malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01) active against the Plasmodium falciparum species.
  • In 2019 a pilot programme for vaccination against malaria was launched in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Funded by Gavi, Global Fund and Unitaid.
  • In 2021, WHO recommended widespread use of the malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01. Largely due to the positive impact the jab has had on the disease.
  • 18 million more doses to be distributed to 12 countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone and Uganda

Disease Burden of Malaria

Over the years, the burden of Malaria in Africa has been extremely disproportionate in relation to global figures. In 2021 for example, World Malaria report estimates that malaria cases in the continent stood at approximately 234 million (95% of global cases). A figure that has led to close to 600,000 deaths (96% of global deaths); 476,000 of which being children under 5 years old.

Four countries in the region (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Mozambique) accounted for close to 50% of global cases of malaria in the same year.

Mosquito; vector for malaria parasite

Why Africa bears the brunt

  • A dry climate with heavy rainfall that encourages breeding of mosquitoes.
  • Anopheles gambiae; the predominant vector species that leads to high transmission
  • High prevalence of the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite that can cause morbidity and mortality within 24 hours.
  • Low financially resourced region.

Malaria vaccine pilot programme

It took more than 30 years for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to develop the (RTS,S/AS01) malaria vaccine that was later used in a pilot vaccination program. Three countries were included in this pilot; Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. A huge milestone since it was the first vaccine to be approved by WHO for use against a human parasitic disease.  

“This vaccine has the potential to be very impactful in the fight against malaria, and when broadly deployed alongside other interventions, it can prevent tens of thousands of future deaths every year,”

Thabani Maphosa, Gavi

Funded by Gavi, Global Fund and Unitaid, the pilot has resulted in a total of 4.5 million vaccines being administered to children in these countries and the benefits are showing. The Kenyan Ministry of Health for example, estimates that prevalence of malaria in the Lake endemic region of the country has dropped from 27% in 2015 to 19% in 2020.

In October 2021, WHO recommended the widespread use of the Malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01 including sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the region. A decision largely driven by positive findings from the pilot, including;

  • a strong safety profile of the vaccine,
  • strong impact on reducing cases of malaria morbidity and mortality,
  • cost effectiveness

Read also: Gambia: 70 children died due to substandard cough syrups (

Gavi announces increased supply of Malaria vaccine

Gavi has announced that a total of 18 million more doses of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine will be distributed to 12 African countries for the period between 2023-2025.  Ghana, Malawi and Kenya will be prioritized with a total of 6.9 million doses to ensure continuity of care in immunization service.

The other 9 countries will receive a total of 11.1 million doses. Selection and allocation process was based on a detailed Framework by WHO that provides guidance on prioritization of areas for supply of the life saving jab.

“While we work with manufacturers to help ramp up supply, we need to make sure the doses that we do have are used as effectively as possible, which means applying all the learnings from our pilot programmes as we broaden out to a new total of 12 countries.”

Thabani Maphosa, Gavi.

The spread in use of the vaccine is expected to be a major step in the fight against the malaria disease burden and alleviating morbidity and mortality rates in children.


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