Some health stakeholders in the Northeast have welcomed the new malaria vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), describing it as instrumental in the fight against the disease.
A cross section of the stakeholders expressed joy over the development in seperate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Thursday, in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe States.
NAN reports that the UN health agency had recommended RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.
The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.
According to the WHO, malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa.
It said that over 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.
In recent years, WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.
Dr Abdulraham Shuaibu, Executive Secretary, Gombe State Primary Health Care Development Agency (GSPHCDA), described the newly introduced malaria vaccine as a welcome development in view of the devastating effect of malaria among the Under-5 children and pregnant women.
Shuaibu said that malaria account for more than 19 per cent mortality of Under-5 children and expectant mothers in the country.
“Developing a vaccine to prevent malaria is a welcome development because it will reduce child mortality in the country” he said.
Also, Dr Shuaibu Mu’azu, Chief Medical Director, Specialist Hospital, Gombe, said that the malaria vaccine would reduce burden of the disease in the state.
“With the vaccine it means that a lot of malaria cases will be averted.
“We will witness reduction in terms of patients inflow coming for treatment because malaria is one of the major illnesses we see here, especially for pregnant women and children.
“This development is going to be a game changer in terms of morbidity and mortality, the cases will reduce which translates to more efficacy to channel our energy to fight other diseases,” he said.
Mu’azu called for proactive measure to enhance access to the vaccine in the country.
In the same vein, Dr Sani Dambam, Executive Secretary, Bauchi State Agency for Control of HIV/AIDS, Malaria,Tuberculosis and Leprosy (BACATMA), who corroborated earlier opinion, said that the recommendations of the vaccine would serve as a “vibrant measure in the campaign against malaria.”
Dambam said that statistics of the 2018 National Health Demographic Survey (NHDS) put the malaria prevalent rate at 31 per cent.
While acknowledging the efficacy of the vaccine as efficient preventive measure, Dambam said that it would fast track eradication of the disease and reduce child mortality.
“The vaccine is the most effective tool considering the morbidity and mortality rate caused by malaria.
“The vaccine will be combined with other preventive measures to eliminate the disease,” he said.
Also, Dr Kabir Ibrahim, Executive Secretary, Jigawa State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (JSPHCDA), described the feat achieved by WHO as “huge development in the spheres of public health.”
Ibrahim explained that the vaccine had been shown to reduce Under-5 mortality by about 40 per cent.
“We are excited, we now have a vaccine that will further protect children from dying of malaria and other complicated diseases.
“The vaccine in question had been shown to protect Under-5 mortality by about 40 per cent,” he said.
“When we combine the new malaria vaccine and other conventional methods of protecting children against malaria, we will be very far away from exposing them to vulnerability of acquiring severe diseases as well as dying from it.
“We are excited and glad to have it in our implementation agenda,” he said.
Also, Malam Bilya Haruna, Coordinator, Malaria Control Programme in the state, said the vaccine would go a long way to curtail malaria among children.
He said that the vaccine would cut cost of expenditure on Malaria treatment by parents, governments and donor agencies.
“In spite of so many interventions to tackle malaria, its burden remained high in terms of death and resources.
“I call on the people to accept the vaccine to reduce the money and resources expanded in the campaign against malaria.
On his part, Dr Mahmood Maaji, a Physician, Yobe Specialist Hospital, Damaturu, warned against neglect ofpreventive measures of malaria due to the recent discovery of the vaccine.
Maaji said the vaccine was not a replacement for other prevention tools but a medical breakthrough to complement them.
“Even if one gets the jab, excessive exposure to mosquito can lead to more infections,” he said.
On why the vaccine targets children, Maaji explained that children were more prone to malaria as against adults.
“An adult can be infected with malaria yet he might be doing normal activities. More so, the body of an adult is already exposed to the disease.
“But in the case of children especially the Under-5, malaria can badly hurt them if appropriate treatment is not carried out,” he said.
For Dambam and Mu’azu, practical measures were necessary to enhance vector control programme to ensure total eradication of the disease.
They stressed the need for the people to adhere to the preventive measures such as use of treated nets, promote personal hygiene and sanitation as well as keep a clean environment.
However, Prof. Abdullahi Isa, Adamawa Commissioner for Health, said that the state government was yet to received official correspondences either by the Federal Government or WHO on the recommendations of malaria vaccine for children.
“The state government has not received any official report from Federal Government or WHO that there is malaria vaccine breakthrough.
“Furthermore, issues concerning vaccine of any type have to be treated and channel officially because it is not a political statement.
“As far as the state Government is concern we are not going to make any comment regarding the alleged malaria vaccine breakthrough,” he said.