The Minister of Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng has asked Members of Parliament to support efforts by the government to roll out the world’s first malaria vaccine in 2023.
The RTS,S malaria vaccine, the result of 35 years of research and development, is the first-ever vaccine against a parasitic disease. It was launched in a 2019 pilot programme, coordinated by the World Health Organisation-WHO in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi where it was found to be about 50 per cent effective in protecting against Malaria, one of the biggest killers of children under five.
Aceng said that the vaccine that the government wants to introduce in 2023 is highly required in Uganda, given the many regions that are experiencing a surge in malaria cases. In 2020, nearly half a million boys and girls died from the disease in Africa alone, a rate of one death every minute.
“We are trying to look for all solutions to reduce mortality and the vaccine is in short supply, only 10 countries can access it and we are running to try and be one of the 10 countries,” Dr Aceng said.
Aceng was responding to a query by Amuria Woman MP Susan Amero about the safety of the vaccine. She had earlier asked the Minister to address parliament about plans to roll out the malaria vaccine and whether it does not pose any risk to children. Amero told parliament that some children had experienced side effects after being vaccinated against Rubella, COVID-19 and other diseases.
However, Aceng said that Uganda has not just started vaccinating people, observing a need for everyone to appreciate and embrace vaccines.
“Uganda is among the 194 subscribing countries to the World Health Organisation-WHO and we vote. There is no medicine or vaccine that comes into Uganda that is not WHO certified,” Aceng said, adding that there is no medicine in the world that does not have side effects and countries only continue carrying out monitoring with a view to finding solutions.
Last month, GAVI-the Vaccine Alliance put aside US Dollars 160 million to help countries in Africa access this world’s first malaria vaccine. The money will be used between 2022 and 2025, starting with Ghana, Kenya and Malawi- the three countries where pilot introductions were done in 2019.
According to WHO, up to a 1.3million children have so far benefitted from the vaccine in the three African pilot countries.
Recently, the Pharmaceutical company GSK was awarded a contract to produce the malaria vaccine so that more children will be protected against the killer disease. The award, valued at up to USD 170 million, will lead to 18 million doses of the RTS, S vaccine being available over the next three years, potentially saving thousands of young lives annually.