Kenya targets children above six months for anti-malaria jabs
Parents with children over six months of age are being urged to get the vaccine against malaria as Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking World Malaria Day.
At least 600 Kenyan children are taking part in the trial of the new R21/Matrix-M vaccine that could be a game-changer in the fight against the disease.
The R21/Matrix-M vaccine candidate was developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India and is currently the most promising malaria vaccine, with about 77 percent efficacy, compared to about 30 percent of the RTS,S vaccine that is already in use in Kenya.
The Kenyan children taking part in the ongoing phase three trials for R21 were recruited in Kilifi County last year by the Kemri-Wellcome Trust.
Speaking during the marking of the World Malaria Day celebration in Kakamega’s Bukhungu Stadium, Dr Aman said it would be an ideal tool against the disease which kills 260,000 children under five in sub-Saharan Africa annually.
Read also: WHO okays expanded use of anti-malaria jab in Kenya as disease prevalence subsides
Dr Aman further noted that Kakamega is among the eight counties that have deployed the vaccine since 2019, with the Ministry of Health expected to scale up deployment of the jab after due advisory, in all sub-counties in Kakamega and malaria-endemic areas in Kenya, especially around the lake region.
According to the Kenya Malaria Indicator survey, Kisii, Nyamira, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Narok, Kericho, Bomet, Bungoma, Kakamega, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties are highland malaria epidemic-prone zones.
To stem the spread, Kenya officially launched the use of the RTS,S vaccine on September 13, 2019, in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County, after successful trials across 26 sub-counties in eight endemic counties in the Lake basin.
They include Homa Bay, Kisumu, Migori, Siaya, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga, and Kakamega areas.
Data by the Ministry of Health shows that 900,000 doses have so far been administered to children in eight malaria-endemic counties.
The data further shows 275,000 children have received at least one out of the four scheduled doses of the vaccine while more than 45,000 children have received the full course of four doses of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, World Health Organization country representative Joyce Onsongo said the Global Vaccine Alliance and other funding agencies have committed to financially supporting countries to increase vaccination beyond their current status.
“The World Health Organization is steering forward to make sure that these vaccines are going to be equitably available to those countries that need them,” Onsongo said.
According to Vaccine Alliance Gavi, more than 830,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi were vaccinated last year after the vaccine was rolled out on a pilot project in Africa in 2019.
“The first results showed hospitalization from severe malaria decreased by about 30 per cent,” Gavi said on its website.
The vaccine has increased access to malaria prevention, reaching more than two-thirds of children not protected by an insecticide-treated net.
Dr Aman said the country is keen on a partnership with Cuba to eradicate malaria in a kes24 billion project that will use biological methods to control mosquito breeding by destroying mosquito eggs.
The CAS stated that his ministry had allocated an additional Sh800,000 in the present budget to deal with malaria and eliminate it by 2030.
The country also had a partnership with USAid which provided 1.5 million insecticide-treated nets, 40,000 malaria treatment doses, and 700,000 test kits all worth Sh600 million.