It is heartening to see progress in the fight against malaria. Over the past thirty years and with hundreds of millions of dollars invested thus far, the RTS,S malaria vaccine was officially rolled out yesterday in Malawi. In 2017, I wrote about the vaccine trials that began in 2009 and the announcement of the three countries that had been chosen for the vaccine rollout: Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana. In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to prevent approximately 4 in 10 malaria cases, including 3 in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria. Now two years later the vaccine is officially in use to curb the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of African children under the age of five. The Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program will continue through 2022.
For decades, there has been consistent chatter, research, and hope for a potential malaria vaccine. Now, all three are finally coming to fruition to roll out the world’s first clinical malaria vaccine trials. The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced today that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been chosen for the WHO-coordinated pilot implementation program that will make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in 2018.
“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement. “Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa,” she added.
Sub-Saharan Africa records 90% of all global malaria cases. Even though the number of cases and deaths have dropped dramatically since 2001, the rate is still astronomically high. In fact, malaria still remains one of the deadliest killers on the African continent, especially for children under the age of five.
To date, the most effective way to curb malaria cases is via the use of bed nets and indoor residual spraying. Unfortunately, 43% of sub-Saharan Africans are not protected against either and 429,000 people died from malaria in 2015. After spending time with mothers in Tanzania with Malaria No More, I saw this to be true. I met moms standing in long lines to receive new nets, but the ones they had used for years had holes throughout, rendering them virtually worthless.
There is now new hope to curb child deaths with the injectible malaria vaccine targeted to children within five to 17 months called RTS,S. The vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline. Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana were chosen for the following reasons according to the World Health Organization:
- high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal treated nets (LLINs)
- well-functioning malaria and immunization programs
- a high malaria burden even after scale-up of LLINs,
- and participation in the Phase III RTS,S malaria vaccine trial
The countries themselves will determine the areas in their country where the trials will ultimately take place. The $49.2 million cost of the trials will be taken up by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID. The World Health Organization and GlaxoSmithKline will additionally provide complimentary funds for the malaria trial efforts.
Photo: UN Photo/Marie Frechon
This month begins a massive scale-up of Pentavalent vaccine for India’s children. With the largest rate of child mortality in the world, this new, national immunization effort will help reduce the number of child deaths in India. The Pentavalent vaccine combines diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) with hepatitis B (hepB) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Haemophilus influenzae type b kills 72,000 Indian children each year. Currently there are 6.8 million unimmunized children in India.
With the help of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, India will roll out free Pentavalent shots in 12 states during its first phase. 8 states already have free Pentavalent immunizations. By the end of phase one 2/3 of all India’s children will have access to the Pentavalent shot, according to GAVI. Phase two will cover the remaining 16 states with the Pentavalent shot. Phase two begins in 2015.
“India’s decision to expand access to Pentavalent vaccines through the Universal Immunization Programme will have a major long-term positive health impact by averting the deaths associated with Hib pneumonia, meningitis and hepB liver cancer,” said Dr Seth Berkley CEO of Gavi.
India has already shown that massive immunization roll-outs are in its citizens’ best interest in order to have a healthier populace. India was recently declared polio free because of its willingness to scale-up its polio vaccination programs.
Read more at GAVI.org.
Becoming increasingly involved in global development news and issues requires a bit of putting pieces of the global puzzle together. Without doing that, the full picture is always clouded. Attempting to figure out why some global development programs work and others don’t, or trying to piece together who works in partnership with whom, or who funds specific projects can be hard to know. That cloudiness becomes problematic as it makes it harder to tell the fullest, most accurate stories. This is certainly not lost on many. Transparency is becoming a mainstay instead of an afterthought in the global aid community.
Last week Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) launched its Development Tracker where you can see the amount and to whom Britain provides development aid. This week GAVI released its 2012 Progress Report. The report publishes key vaccine data from last year and the GAVI Alliance web site itself houses a plethora of easily accessible data that can help shed light on expenditures, payments, and vaccine roll-out dates.
Next week as the world has its eyes on the G8 Summit, the ONE Campaign will push for more extractive transparency where they will call on the major governments to require companies that remove oil, gas and minerals from Africa to report what and how much is extracted. The progress on extractive transparency is slow going as companies, lobbyists, and unions fight for their own interests to keep that information covered. And, yet, governments, including the US and UK, have come on board to require increased scrutiny and transparency to the extractive sector.
There is also increased transparency in global development programs and how much is funded by foundations. Launched in 2010 Glass Pockets created by the Foundation Center effectively allows everyone – media, researchers, developers, the public – to view the grants foundations have made to nonprofits and global NGOs. What Glass Pockets has done is opened up grant data for the world to see. The reasons are many: transparency in giving, transparency in communications, transparency in the types of programs funded. Last year, Glass Pockets released the Reporting Commitment, a robust database of the grants made by the world’s largest foundations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation and others. The foundations have agreed to release this data quarterly in an effort to keep data current and transparency effective.
The more transparent the global development community is the better for everyone. Real change can take place for the communities that most need aid and a broader story of how things work gets told.
- A little more transparency at EITI can go a long way (devex.com)
- A memo to the G8: Time to deliver on aid transparency (devex.com)
- Transparency: more than a tick-box exercise? (guardian.co.uk)
Did you know there are 22 million children who still do not have access to vaccines? This is according to GAVI Alliance’s recently released 2012 Progress Report. Despite the high number of children who are not being vaccinated GAVI met and achieved many global milestones that are highlighted in its 2012 timeline including attracting $38 million US in pledges for childhood immunizations in January and securing a 67% decrease in rotavirus costs in April.
Pneumonia and diarrhea account for nearly a quarter of all deaths of children under the age of five so lowering the cost of the vaccines is critical to saving more children’s lives. Through vaccines 500,000 children’s lives can be saved annually.
In 2012 you can see the graph of GAVI supported vaccine introductions. Click to enlarge. From the graph, the standout country in 2012 was Ghana which rolled out yellow fever, pnemococcal, rotavirus, measles 2nd dose, and meningitis A vaccines.
Eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases is the ultimate equity – no one has to suffer from the disease anymore. – Dr Alan Hinman, CSO representative, GAVI Board
In the report it is surprising to learn that across the 73 approved GAVI countries there is only 3% coverage of the rotavirus vaccine and 10% coverage of the pneumococcal vaccine, even though as aforementioned pneumonia and diarrhea are the leading causes of death for children under the age of 5. As of 2012 here is a graph showing the vaccine coverage.
You can read the entire 2012 Progress Report at gaviprogressreport.org.
Photos: United Nations and GAVI