A government initiative through the Ministry of Health programme was facilitated in the country by University of North Carolina (UNC) Project.
Phase 3 of the vaccine trial was conducted in 7 sub Saharan African countries including Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi enrolled 15 500 infants and young children between 5 to 17 months.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the vaccine reduced malaria prevalence by 39% among children who received 3 doses of RTSS in the age bracket of 5-17 months which is equivalent to preventing nearly 4 in every 10 malaria cases.
While amongst the same 5-17 months age range those who did not receive a 4th dose of the vaccine lost the protective benefit against severe malaria.
According to UNC’s Country Director Innocent Mofolo the vaccine’s efficacy’s was proved through the trial and the programme is now under the country’s Health Ministry for implementation.
“Malawi has been selected as one of the beneficiaries to mass vaccinate 240 000 children.”
“So that is a good development that the research was done here in Malawi and it will be Malawian children benefitting from that vaccine,” beamed Mofolo.
He said his organization’s role would be to evaluate the mass vaccination to be undertaken by government.
Mofolo explained that the exercise is expected to start in the 3rd quarter of next year in either August or September.
He further pointed out that government will be responsible for selecting districts where the vaccine will be administered.
The UNC’s Director described the results as a breakthrough in the fight against malaria which continues to claim lives of adults and children.
“This vaccine will be just another tool in the fight against malaria. It will be an additional tool to the ones that we are currently using like the bed nets,” he explained.
Conducted between 2009- 2014 the vaccine was generally well tolerated with adverse reactions similar to other childhood vaccines.
He noted that the research which the organization has been conducting in Malawi has helped impact policy in the health sector especially in the management and treatment of diseases.
Among the younger infants the vaccine did not work sufficiently well to justify its further use in the age group of less than 5 months.
UNC conducts research in HIV prevention and treatment, maternal and child health, infectious diseases like pneumonia meningitis non-communicable diseases such as cancer mental health whilst ensuring that the research aligns to the country’s needs.