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African nations test new malaria vaccine

International | Pilot program could be a breakthrough in the fight against disease on the continent
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/30/19, 04:06 pm

Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, but a vaccine trial is offering new hope to communities that suffer most from the disease.

Malawi became the first country to implement a pilot program to dispense a malaria vaccine for children last week. Scientists with the U.K.-based GSK pharmaceutical company took 30 years to develop the vaccine. It trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, spread by the female Anopheles mosquito.

Malaria remains one of the deadliest diseases in the world, particularly in Africa, where it kills more than 250,000 children annually. Globally, at least one child dies of malaria every two minutes. In Malawi, about 5.9 million people contracted the disease in 2017 out of a population of 18.6 million, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. The disease costs Africa an estimated $12 billion every year and drains the gross domestic product of countries on the continent by 5 to 6 percent, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Clinical trials showed the vaccine successfully prevented 4 in 10 malaria cases. The numbers are low compared to vaccines for other diseases, but the effort should still provide a needed boost in the fight against malaria. In 2017, cases of the disease continued to rise for the second year in a row after more than a decade of decline. Workers will implement the vaccine alongside other preventive measures, including insecticides and treated bed nets.

“We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general. “We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there.”

Ghana will also launch the program this week, joined by Kenya in the coming weeks. Each country’s national immunization program will dispense the four-dose treatment to children between the ages of 5 and 18 months. The program will vaccinate about 360,000 children each year in the three countries.

The vaccine received interagency funding from groups like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Unitaid, and the Seattle-based PATH health group, among others. The health ministries in the three countries will also include it in their routine immunization program. Malawi is deploying it in 11 districts with moderate to high rates of malaria transmission, where the vaccine can have the greatest effect.

One mother, who brought her youngest children to the Mitundu Community Hospital to receive the first dose, said she wanted to ensure her child is protected.

“My husband was diagnosed with malaria, but there was no medication available at the hospital,” said Alinafe Tsitsi. “I was scared for his life. When I found out about the malaria vaccine, I wanted my child to have it.”

Debbie Atherly, head of vaccine policy, access, and delivery at PATH, told me the pilot programs would observe possible challenges, such as whether mothers are able to take their children for all four doses. The long-term goal will focus on providing access to the vaccine in more countries.

“The pilot introductions are meant to last until 2023, but a recommendation for broader use could be made before that,” Atherly said. “Then it would be up to the countries to decide.”

Facebook/Zipline International Inc. Facebook/Zipline International Inc. A Zipline International drone

Drones deliver health aid in Ghana

A U.S.-based company that delivers medical supplies by drone launched a new service last week in Ghana to bring aid to some of the remotest parts of the country.

Zipline International and the Ghanaian government inaugurated the first of four distribution centers. Each station will eventually send out up to 500 deliveries per day and serve a total of 12 million people.

The company, founded in 2014, launched its first smaller project on the continent two years earlier in Rwanda. It has made more than 13,000 deliveries, a third of them for emergencies.

“No one in Ghana should die because they can’t access the medicine they need in an emergency,” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said.

Zipline will receive more than $12 million from the Ghanian government to execute the project over the next four years. Critics called on the government to spend the resources instead on improving the existing healthcare system, which has fewer than 55 ambulances to serve the nation’s 29 million people. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Rahmat Gul Associated Press/Photo by Rahmat Gul Afghan National Army soldiers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kabul

Pro-Afghan forces cause civilian deaths

The Afghanistan government and its international allies killed more civilians in the first quarter of this year than the Taliban and other anti-government elements did, the United Nations revealed in a report.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan recorded 581 deaths from January to March, with 1,192 civilians wounded. Pro-government forces accounted for 305 civilian deaths, while insurgents killed 227 people. Airstrikes coordinated by the U.S Operation Freedom’s Sentinel accounted for 140 deaths.

The U.S. military increased targeted strikes in 2017 after President Donald Trump loosened restrictions in a bid to end the 17-year war. U.S. Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States deeply regrets the loss of life. “While we strive to prevent casualties, real solution is a cease-fire or reduced violence as we pursue lasting peace.”

The UN called on the government and on international military forces to investigate the allegations. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Tatan Syuflana Associated Press/Photo by Tatan Syuflana Police officers on patrol at the General Elections Commission office in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 18

Election takes toll on Indonesian workers

Indonesian officials this week said at least 272 election workers died and about 1,900 others fell sick from fatigue as the country completed an elaborate electoral process this month.

The sick staff will receive medical support while the Finance Ministry sorts out compensation plans for the families of the deceased, according to Arief Priyo Susanto, a spokesman for the Indonesia General Elections Commission.

Some 198 million Indonesians registered to take part in the April 17 election. The national, regional, and parliamentary polls were combined into a single process in an attempt to cut costs. Nearly 6 million workers assisted in the elections that spanned 17,000 islands and 810,000 polling stations. Final results are expected in May. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Manish Swarup Associated Press/Photo by Manish Swarup Sri Lankan soldiers outside St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo on Monday

Persecution follows Sri Lanka attacks

The fallout from Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings continues to reverberate locally and globally. In Negombo, Sri Lanka, an angry mob caused Muslim and Christian refugees to flee last week, according to Reuters and Amnesty International. Although Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Easter attacks on churches and hotels, the mob targeted hundreds of Pakistani Amadis, a Muslim minority group that believes in the peaceful advancement of Islam.

Amnesty called for protection for all religions in Sri Lanka so that Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus all feel safe at “work and worship.” —Julia A. Seymour

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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  • Laura W
    Posted: Sat, 05/04/2019 07:25 am

    That is big news about the malaria vaccine. I hope they can get the effectiveness up as testing continues.

  • cln
    Posted: Tue, 05/07/2019 09:01 pm

    I have known of remedies that were very effective for malaria, risk free, inexpensive and easily available. But not politically acceptable. And that makes all the difference. So sad we are using drugs when we could use safe remedies. So 6 out of 10 get the drug with no effect on malaria, but possibly a harmful effect in other ways. 

  • Bix
    Posted: Thu, 05/09/2019 01:39 pm


    I would like to hear of those remedies for malaria. I worked as a medical professional in Africa for years, and know of nothing for malaria that is easily used or successful. 1. Bed nets? No, people cook, eat, visit after dark when Anopheles mosquitoes bite, and don't go to bed till later. 2. Pills? Much drug-resistance. 3. Window screens? Way too expensive. 4. Getting rid of standing water? Also very complex and expensive. 4. Topical mosquito repellants? Expensive.

    What else??


  • cln
    Posted: Thu, 05/09/2019 05:37 pm

    Bix. Here is what I remember. Iodine. In one of my classes the instructor talked about it and it's incredible effectiveness but the impossibility of getting it to the people because it would bypass pharma and the politically correct group.  Another one is Silver Shield which I remember has been shown to be successful. A product made by Nature's Sunshine and shown to be very effective even on children who were close to death...developed by a leading scientist who worked for the US government at one time. (According to my memory). His name is Dr. Gordon Pederson, a board certified physician in Regenerative Medicine. He wrote, A New Fighting Chance.  I think it was take 2 bottles within a 24 hours and it was super effective, but you can read his book.  I had a client in Rwanda who got malaria. I had him use a salt remedy and it turned him around almost immediately. I cannot remember exactly what we did but it was external application of a lot of salt.  Regarding the silver would be so cheap for these poor countries to manufacture their own colloidal silver solutions. Far more effective and far safer than antibiotics and useful for many applications where drugs would normally be used. When we have gone to Haiti I tried to implement that idea, but generally people respect and like the idea of western medicine. So it is an uphill battle to go another direction.