A professor of virology, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, has described the new malaria vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa and other malaria-endemic regions as another bullet in the armoury against malaria.
Tomori, a former Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer’s University, Ede in Osun made the assertion while speaking with a correspondent of the newsmen in Abuja on Friday on the new malaria vaccine announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He described the vaccine as a big addition to malaria prevention and control interventions, noting however, that the breakthrough was not yet the “magic bullet’’.
The product is the first malaria vaccine put out by experts after years of testing in African countries. The vaccine is expected to save the lives of thousands of children in Africa every year.
The Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, described the endorsement of the vaccine by two advisory groups of the UN health agency as “a historic moment.”
He stressed that malaria killed 270,000 children in Africa in 2019, noting that the new vaccine with 70 per cent success rate had kept many African out of hospitals.
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“If African leaders had issues of feeding their current population, wait until this vaccine saves 400,000 humans annually.”
Tomori noted that WHO’s recommendation was based on results from clinical trials conducted in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania and that the trials involved more than 800,000 children since 2019.
“This long-awaited malaria vaccine is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save lives in the continent.”
According to Tomori, the vaccine, called Mosquirix, is not just a first vaccine against malaria, it is the first vaccine developed for any parasitic disease.
He said that that parasites were much more complex than viruses and that the quest for a malaria vaccine had been in the process of development for a long time.
The don described the achievement as a big success.
“Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite. Humans get infected by the parasite through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
“Symptoms of malaria include abdominal or muscle pain, chills, fatigue, fever, night sweats, shivering or sweating, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting are also common.
“Along with this, there is headache, mental confusion or pallor,” he added.
Tomori said that malaria elimination required more than the inputs of governments and international donors, noting that it would take the involvement of citizens and an aggressive vector control to eliminate the disease.
He proposed three major approaches for malaria control, including vaccine research, environmental sanitation and the use of fumigation to get rid of mosquitoes, the primary vectors malaria.
Tomori added that a malaria vaccine would only complement other measures in the effort to eliminate malarial completely from Nigeria.
“We do not address malaria by buying mosquito nets or sprays. We address the roots by fixing sanitation, cleaning canals, gutters and drainages, to remove pools of stagnant and dirty water.
“When the channels get clogged in our neighbourhoods, we end up with poor environmental sanitation, leading to the endemic diseases such as malaria, cholera, dysentery and others.
“While we wait for the malaria vaccine to be put into use, we can do more in the fight against malaria when we improve sanitation.
“Indiscriminate disposal of waste in drains and stagnation of water in pools provide breeding space for mosquitoes.”
According to him, we must continue with known and new drug therapies. However, the most important, is the use of preventive interventions -impregnated nets, vector control, environmental sanitation.
Newsmen report that the long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control and that using the vaccine with existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives every year.
The vaccine was first made by the pharmaceutical company, GSK in 1987.