Cameroon Leads the Way: World’s First Malaria Vaccine Rollout

In a monumental stride towards eradicating malaria, children in Cameroon have become the first worldwide to receive routine malaria immunizations. This significant development follows Cameroon’s adoption of the malaria vaccine recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The initiative marks a pivotal moment in global healthcare, with 19 other nations slated to introduce the vaccine this year, aiming to reach over 3 million children.

The Escalating Malaria Crisis in Cameroon

Malaria remains a formidable threat, claiming the lives of nearly 620,000 people annually, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa, where children under the age of five are the most vulnerable. The WHO has set ambitious targets to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by 90% in the next six years and to eliminate the disease in 35 countries. Disturbingly, malaria-related deaths in Cameroon have been on the rise since 2017, with approximately one-third of all hospital consultations attributed to malaria, underscoring the urgent need for effective intervention. Cameroon aims to vaccinate approximately 250,000 children against malaria this year, a crucial step in curbing the disease’s devastating impact.

Cameroon: World's First Malaria Vaccine Rollout

Challenges and Breakthrough in Malaria Vaccine Development

Developing a malaria vaccine has long been a formidable challenge due to the parasite’s propensity to mutate and develop treatment resistance, compounded by the looming threat of climate change-altering disease transmission patterns. The newly introduced vaccine, Mosquirix, developed by GSK Plc in collaboration with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, underwent trials in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi in 2019. Administered alongside existing preventive measures such as bed nets and indoor spraying, Mosquirix targets children from five months of age, with a recommended schedule of four doses. Furthermore, hopes are high for the imminent availability of a second WHO-approved malaria vaccine later this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions have impeded malaria control efforts in recent years, with cases rising by approximately 5 million annually in 2022, according to the WHO. However, prospects for combating malaria have been bolstered by the potential availability of a second vaccine. Developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India, the R21 vaccine completed a crucial regulatory step in December, paving the way for its potential launch in May or June. This dual-vaccine approach holds immense promise in bridging the gap between vaccine demand and supply, potentially saving countless young lives, particularly in Africa.

Cameroon: World's First Malaria Vaccine Rollout

Dual-Vaccine Approach Enhancing Malaria Control Prospects

While introducing malaria vaccines represents a watershed moment in global health, some experts caution against diverting attention and resources from established preventive measures such as bed nets. Nonetheless, health experts emphasize that the vaccine rollout is accompanied by extensive community outreach efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and underscore the importance of continued use of all protective measures in tandem with vaccination.

In the relentless pursuit of a malaria-free future, Cameroon’s pioneering vaccine rollout serves as a beacon of hope, offering a glimpse of what can be achieved through concerted global efforts and unwavering determination in the fight against one of humanity’s oldest and deadliest foes.

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Shyam Bishen, World Economic Forum. Cameroon starts malaria vaccine programme, and other health stories you need to know this week [Internet]. World Economic Forum. 2024 [cited 2024 Feb 6]. Available from:

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