Malaria Vaccine Introduced into EPI

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A new vaccine has been introduced into the Expended Program on Immunization (EPI) in Cameroon. The vaccine against malaria will officially be administered to children six months of age as from the 22 of January 2024, in three health districts in the Northwest region.

Malaria is a major public health problem in Cameroon with close to 4000 deaths reported in 2021 and over 3 million cases reported in health facilities in Cameroon in the same year. Malaria accounted for 29.6 % of reasons for consultation and 14.3 % of deaths in hospitals in the country for the same period. Malaria also has a heavier burden on pregnant women and children less than 5 years of age who are the most vulnerable to the disease, accounting for 64% of malaria related deaths. The statistics are particularly grim for children less than five years of age who account for 32% of cases and over 70% of malaria related deaths.

The World Health Organisation recommends prevention as the best control against the disease. In 2023, WHO recommended the use of the malaria vaccine as a means to combating the disease.

 Cameroon in an effort to reduce mortality from malaria among children less than five years decided to include the vaccine in the routine vaccination calendar. 42 health districts, including three in the Northwest will take part in the first phase. These health districts according to the ministry of public health are those with the highest transmission and mortality rates.

Dr. Cornilus Cheboh, coordinator of the EPI -NW said three health districts in the Northwest, Bamenda, Benakuma and Nkambe will take part in the first phase. The first dose of the vaccine will be given to children at six months, the second at seven months, the 3rd at nine months and the 4th at 24 months in both public and secular health facilities.

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Dr. Cornilus Cheboh, Coordinator EPI-NW

Dr. Cornilus Cheboh, coordinator of the EPI-Northwest says the roll out of the vaccine will help reduce the burden of malaria on families. “The burden against malaria will be drastically reduced, most of our children will now be able to stay in school without missing clases, most families are going to have extra money because these children will not be sick for them to buy medications, and directly its also going to improve on the life style of an average Cameroonian if not average person in the Northwest region”.

The vaccine Dr Cheboh continues is already in use in three other African countries, Malawi, Ghana and Kenya and has brought down mortality of children below five years in these countries to acceptable levels..

While only three health districts will be involved in the first phase, NW health officials have asked parents to be patient as more doses of the vaccines will be made available soon.

By Abongwa Fozo

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