In a post Tweeted last October 3, Minister of Public Health (Minsanté) Manaouda Malachie announced that Cameroon has just obtained, via its partners, 1.6 million doses of malaria vaccine "for introduction into routine use in January 2024". Delivery of these doses is scheduled for December 2023, he says. However, he did not specify the name of the vaccine involved.
On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended a new vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, to prevent malaria in children. R21 is the second malaria vaccine approved by the WHO after the RTS,S vaccine produced by British giant GSK with the support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), which the UN agency recommended in 2021.
According to the WHO, the addition of R21 to the list of recommended malaria vaccines should result in a sufficient supply of vaccines for children living in areas where malaria is a public health risk, as the availability of RTS,S is limited. The organization claims that both vaccines are "safe" and "effective" in preventing malaria in children.
In Cameroon, the malaria vaccine will be officially introduced into the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) next year. However, it will be deployed in only a few health districts, we learn.
"First, 42 districts with the highest number of deaths compared to the number of cases will be covered. The vaccine will be given from the age of 6 months for the first dose, 7 months for the second dose, and 9 months for the third dose. This is the primary series. The booster dose is given at 18 months of age to reinforce efficacy," explains Dr. Shalom Tchokfe Ndoula, permanent secretary of the EPI.
Malaria remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the country, particularly among children. "Malaria is highly endemic in Cameroon, which means that all 27 million Cameroonians are regularly exposed to the disease. Every year, we record 6 million cases of malaria, and our health establishments suffer around 4,000 deaths, most of which affect children under 5. However, not all cases are registered, and the WHO estimates that around 11,000 people die of malaria in Cameroon every year," according to Dr Dorothy Achu, Permanent Secretary of the National Malaria Control Program (PNLP).
In 2022, health facilities reported more than 3.3 million cases of malaria, with 2,481 deaths, mainly among children under 5, according to PNLP data.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem