Editorial: Malaria vaccine is Africa’s pride
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CAPE TOWN - The historic World Health Organization’s recommended malaria vaccine marks the beginning of a promising era, especially for sub-Saharan Africa where it has stalked the region, causing immense suffering for centuries.
Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in the region, with more than 260 000 African children dying from it annually – most under the age of five.
Sub-Saharan Africa was home to 94% of malaria cases and deaths in 2019, according to the WHO.
The announcement of the vaccine recommendation aims to change this in our lifetime.
The WHO last week recommended the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.
Since 2019, researchers have been carrying out wider pilot immunisation programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. The vaccine was proven effective six years ago, preventing 40% of malaria cases and 30% of severe cases.
When Africa has been battling the ravages of the Covid-19, with wealthy countries especially in Europe hoarding the vaccines, the news of the malaria jab gives our continent a glimmer of hope.
Our founding president of a liberated South Africa Nelson Mandela must be smiling in heaven, for he was championing the fight against malaria, including the development of its vaccine.
It has taken decades for us to get to this stage, especially when so many deaths could have been prevented, only if the world acted with the urgency required.
The groundbreaking malaria vaccine for children at risk should inspire all Africans to unite in the fight against other epidemics and pandemics.
The public health crises caused by Malaria, HIV/Aids, TB and now Covid, should be enough reason for our African leaders to be preoccupied with leading the charge in allocating the necessary resources for them to be addressed.
This should start with each AU member state committing to making funds available for this just cause within strict time frames.
It always seems impossible until it’s done as our Madiba once reminded us.
The time for Africa to rely on handouts has cost our continent dearly.
Just look at how Europeans have kept the Covid-19 vaccines for their population, forgetting the damage they caused in Africa when exploiting its minerals and enslaving millions without compensation.
That this malaria vaccine was developed in Africa by African scientists shows our continent’s true worth.