32% Decrease in Malaria Hospital Admissions in Western Kenya
By Mary Hearty
With the rollout of the malaria vaccine in Western Kenya, there has been a 32% reduction in children admissions due to the disease.
This is according to Dr. Sam Akech, a Pediatrician and Research Scientist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) presenting the findings of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program (MVIP) during the annual KEMRI conference in Nairobi.
Currently, over 2.3 million doses of the RTS, S vaccine have been given to more than 800,000 children in high malaria burden counties around western Kenya including Migori, Homabay, Kisumu, Siaya, Busia, Vihiga, Kakamega, and Bungoma.
“We finally have a malaria vaccine that when used will reduce mortality in children. Children who live in areas where the vaccine was given are less likely to get severe malaria,” he said.
Dr. Akech added that the vaccine reduces the chances of getting severe malaria by up to 30%, and so, those who get malaria after the vaccine suffer from a non-severe form of the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already approved the vaccine for wider use, hence the Ministry of Health will soon deploy them to more children so that areas that did not introduce the vaccine can also access them.
Though progress has been made in reducing the disease, he revealed that it will become part of the routine childhood vaccine in areas that still have a high burden of malaria, especially in the western region where some areas record a high of 40%.
The pediatrician said the first dose of the vaccine is given to children as they turn six months, the second dose at seven months, the third dose at nine months, and the fourth dose when the child turns two years.
Despite the vaccine reducing chances of getting malaria as well as severe malaria, Dr. Akech emphasized that people still need to continue with other measures that to prevent malaria.
“The vaccine is not a magic bullet in the fight against malaria it only gives partial protection. The children still need to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets, and when they feel sick they still need to get tested for the disease and be given antimalarial drugs,” he clarified.
Dr. Akech revealed that further studies are still ongoing to analyze the number of doses required for long-term immunity.