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Economy

Kenya picked for key global anti-malaria vaccine trial

Mosquito is the carrier for the malaria parasite. FILE photo | nmg
Mosquito is the carrier for the malaria parasite. FILE photo | nmg 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday picked Kenya as one of the countries that will participate in the planned testing of the world’s first malaria vaccine.

Phase One of the trials, which also takes place in Malawi and Ghana, will see 120,000 Kenyan children get the malaria jab over five years.

The vaccine is considered to be humanity’s biggest advancement in the war the against malaria, one of the top killer diseases in Kenya and Africa.

The four dose injectable vaccine (known as RTS,S or Mosquirix) will be tested in malaria-prone regions alongside existing measures, including sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets and spraying of homes.

The first vaccine will be administered to infants at five months, while the second and third will be given at monthly intervals. The fourth dose will be given 15 to 18 months after the third dose.

The vaccine is, however, expected to be effective on only 40 per cent of all recipients based on the outcome of clinical trials which showed that it provides partial protection against the parasite, Plasmodium falciparum (responsible for 99 per cent of malaria deaths globally) in young children.

The Ministry of Health is now expected to establish structures for the trials and train personnel ahead of the planned rollout mid next year.

The National Malaria Control Programme and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board are participating in the trials as technical partners.

“The first phase will be fully funded (by Global Fund, Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, UNITAID) but the government will be expected to cover the cost of training the personnel, planning for the rollout and sensitising the locals regarding the vaccine,” Health secretary Health Cleopa Mailu said.

After the five-year programme the WHO is expected to publish a report on the vaccine’s impact on child mortality and the practicality of its delivery, ahead of a wide-scale rollout.

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