Shipment of the world’s first WHO-recommended malaria vaccine, RTS, S, procured by UNICEF with the support of Gavi, arrived in Sierra Leone on Friday. The delivery of 550,000 doses worth US $5.5 million will contribute significantly to curb malaria cases among children under five years of age across the country.
Malaria remains the number one killer disease of children under five in Sierra Leone with over 100 deaths for every 1000 children born, accounting for 25 per cent of the under-five mortality rate in the country and over one million hospital visits each year.
“We have undertaken extensive efforts in the battle against malaria, including indoor residual spraying, the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, malaria testing, and the provision of prevention and treatment doses of antimalarial drugs. Despite these initiatives, we continue to experience high rates of malaria mortality,” stated Dr. Austin Demby, the Minister of Health, upon receiving a shipment of malaria vaccines at Lungi International Airport. “These vaccines represent new weapons in our arsenal to successfully conclude the fight against malaria and achieve significant progress. Each one of us has a role to play in eliminating this disease from our society.”
The country-wide roll-out of the Malaria vaccine to all children under the age of two years will commence in March 2024. In addition to the procurement of the vaccines, UNICEF will also be supporting the Ministry of Health’s malaria vaccine introduction plan, ensuring informed public engagement, strengthening the cold chain system, and training health staff to administer the vaccines effectively in line with GAVI, UNICEF and WHO standard global guidelines.
“These vaccines are a game changer in our collective fight against malaria, but vaccination alone will not save lives; we have to continue with the other efforts in the fight against malaria, including sleeping under insecticide treated bed nets,” said Rudolf Schwenk, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “We look forward to the collaboration, sustained commitment, and support of the Government of Sierra Leone and all our partners to making the malaria vaccine accessible to all eligible children, so that Sierra Leone will one day become Malaria free.”
“These vaccines are WHO prequalified and safe to administer, and we hope communities will fully embrace them in the fight against malaria,” said Dr Innocent Bright Nuwagira, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNICEF Sierra Leone.