Nigeria: Gavi to Prioritise Nigeria in Malaria Vaccine Rollout - Minister

14 September 2023

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, also accounts for a high percentage of malaria burden globally

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, on Thursday said the Global Vaccine Alliance, GAVI has promised to prioritise Nigeria in the rollout of the R21/Matrix-Mmalaria vaccine.

Mr Pate, who made this known during Gavi's visit to the Primary Healthcare Centre in New Karu, Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, said malaria is a very important disease that should be addressed.

"Gavi just told us that they will prioritise Nigeria in the rollout of the new malaria vaccine over time," he said.

"That does not mean no more nets, that does not mean no treatment, but at least we have additional tools in the fight against malaria".

Malaria burden

Malaria, a disease caused by a parasite, spread to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, kills more than 600,000 people yearly, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, also accounts for a high percentage of the malaria burden globally.

The 2022 Nigeria Malaria Report shows that malaria death rates in Nigeria dropped by 55 per cent between the years 2000 and 2021, and incidence also dropped by 26 per cent within the same period.

However, with the approval of a new vaccine- R21/Matrix-M, there is hope of ending the disease.

Malaria Vaccine

The Nigerian government in April, approved a new malaria vaccine from Oxford University, becoming the second country after Ghana in the world to grant such approval.

The vaccine- R21/Matrix-M, is developed by the University of Oxford and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

The R21, otherwise referred to as the Matrix-M malaria vaccine, is the second vaccine ever developed for the disease.

Despite accounting for high cases of Malaria, Nigeria was in July excluded from the list of 12 African countries to receive 18 million doses of the vaccine from 2023 to 2025.

According to a statement jointly issued by Gavi, WHO, and UNICEF, the vaccine has been administered to more than 1.7 million children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi since 2019 and is safe and effective, resulting in a substantial reduction in severe malaria and a fall in child deaths.

They also said at least 28 African countries have expressed interest in receiving the malaria vaccine.

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"In addition to Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, the initial 18 million dose allocation will enable nine more countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, to introduce the vaccine into their routine immunisation programmes for the first time."

Investment in immunisation

During the visit, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said the choice of Nasarawa State is because of its investments in immunisation and Primary Health Care.

Mr Shuaib said the dividends of the visit would be visible over the next few weeks.

In his remark, the Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, David Marlow, said GAVI's visit is part of activities to look after the countries they work in.

Mr Marlow said GAVI will continue the strong partnership that has been built over many years since the year 2000.

"We have been active in Nigeria and although there have been many accomplishments in making progress in overall health care in the country, there is still a huge amount of work to be done," he said.

"I spoke with the minister about the future opportunity to prevent deaths in Nigeria and the potential by 2030 to save 5.6 million people's lives, and that does not even exclude many other potential vaccines such as malaria that we can bring to this country. "

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