Liberia: Major Step in Malaria Prevention As Three West African Countries Roll Out Vaccine

Patient with severe malaria (file photo)
press release

Cotonou/Freetown/Monrovia — In a significant step forward for malaria prevention in Africa, three countries - Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone - today launched a large-scale rollout of the life-saving malaria vaccine targeting millions of children across the three West African nations. The vaccine rollout, announced on World Malaria Day, seeks to further scale up vaccine deployment in the African region.Today's launch brings to eight the number of countries on the continent to offer the malaria vaccine as part of the childhood immunization programmes, extending access to more comprehensive malaria prevention. Several of the more than 30 countries in the African region that have expressed interest in the vaccine are scheduled to roll it out in the next year through support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as efforts continue to widen its deployment in the region in coordination with other prevention measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets and seasonal malaria chemoprevention.

Benin, which received 215,900 doses, has added the malaria vaccine to its Expanded Programme on Immunization. The malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from around 5 months of age.

"The introduction of the malaria vaccine in the Expanded Programme on Immunization for our children is a major step forward in the fight against this scourge. I would like to reassure that the malaria vaccines are safe and effective and contribute to the protection of our children against this serious and fatal diseases," said Prof Benjamin Hounkpatin, Minister of Health of Benin.

In Liberia, the vaccine was launched in the southern Rivercess County and will be rolled out afterwards in five other counties which have high malaria burden. At least 45,000 children are expected to benefit from the 112,000 doses of the available vaccine.

"For far too long, malaria has stolen the laughter and dreams of our children. But today, with this vaccine and the unwavering commitment of our communities, healthcare workers and our partners, including Gavi, UNICEF and WHO, we break the chain. We have a powerful tool that will protect them from this devastating illness and related deaths, ensuring their right to health and a brighter future. Let's end malaria in Liberia and pave the way for a healthier, more just society," said Dr Louise Kpoto, Liberia's Minister of Health.

Two safe and effective vaccines - RTS,S and R21 - recommended by World Health Organization (WHO), are a breakthrough for child health and malaria control. A pilot malaria vaccine programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi reached over 2 million children from 2019 to 2023, showing a significant reduction in malaria illness and a 13% drop in overall child mortality and substantial reductions in hospitalizations.

In Sierra Leone, the first doses were administered to children at a health centre in Western Area Rural where the authorities kicked off the rollout of 550,000 vaccine doses. The vaccine will then be delivered in health facilities nationwide.

"With the new, safe and efficacious malaria vaccine, we now have an additional tool to fight this disease. In combination with insecticide-treated nets, effective diagnosis and treatment, and indoor spraying, no child should die from malaria infection," said Dr Austin Demby, Minister of Health of Sierra Leone.

Malaria remains a huge health challenge in the African region, which is home to 11 countries that carry approximately 70% of the global burden of malaria. The region accounted for 94% of global malaria cases and 95% of all malaria deaths in 2022, according to the World Malaria Report.

"The African region is taking positive steps in scaling up the rollout of the malaria vaccine - a game-changer in our fight against this deadly disease," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. "Working with our partners, we're committed to supporting the ongoing efforts to protect, save the lives of young children and lower the malaria burden in the region."

Aurélia Nguyen, Chief Programme Officer at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, noted: "Today we celebrate more children gaining access to a new life-saving tool to fight one of Africa's deadliest diseases. This introduction of malaria vaccines into routine programmes in Benin, Liberia, and Sierra Leone alongside other proven interventions will help save lives and offer relief to families, communities and hard-pressed health systems."

Progress against malaria has stalled in these high-burden African countries since 2017 due to factors including climate change, humanitarian crises, low access to and insufficient quality of health services, gender-related barriers, biological threats such as insecticide and drug resistance and global economic crises. Fragile health systems and critical gaps in data and surveillance have compounded the challenge.

To put malaria progress back on track, WHO recommends robust commitment to malaria responses at all levels, particularly in high-burden countries; greater domestic and international funding; science and data-driven malaria responses; urgent action on the health impacts of climate change; harnessing research and innovation; as well as strong partnerships for coordinated responses. WHO is also calling attention to addressing delays in malaria programme implementation.

Notes to editors

Eight countries have so far rolled out the malaria vaccine as part of childhood immunization programmes in 2024: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.

About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate more than half the world's children against some of the world's deadliest diseases. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organisations that fund Gavi's work here.

Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation - over 1 billion children - and prevented more than 17.3 million future deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 78 lower-income countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningococcal and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation, above all the zero-dose children who have not received even a single vaccine shot. The Vaccine Alliance employs innovative finance and the latest technology - from drones to biometrics - to save lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About WHO

Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the UN agency for health that connects nations, partners and people on the front lines in 150+ locations - leading the world's response to health emergencies, preventing disease, addressing the root causes of health issues and expanding access to medicines and health care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

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