A first shipment of 331,200 doses of RTS,S vaccine landed in Cameroon Tuesday (Nov. 21).
The World Health Organization, the UN children's agency UNICEF and the Gavi vaccine alliance said in a joint statement Wednesday (Nov.22) that the delivery "[signaled] that scale-up of vaccination against malaria across the highest-risk areas on the African continent [would] begin shortly".
RTS,S— is the first malaria vaccine recommended by the WHO.
The jab acts against plasmodium falciparum—the deadliest malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa.
It is administered in a four-dose schedule which begins at around the age of five months old.
Several African countries are finalizing preparations for malaria vaccine introduction into routine immunization programs, with the first doses set to be administered in January-March 2024.
A further 1.7 million doses are set for delivery to Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone in the coming weeks.
The shipments signal that malaria vaccination is moving out of its pilot phase
Since 2019, more than two million children have been jabbed in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in a pilot phase, resulting in substantial reductions in severe malaria illness and hospitalizations.
Africa accounted for approximately 95 percent of global malaria cases and 96 percent of related deaths from the mosquito-borne disease in 2021.
Global malaria deaths dipped slightly to 619,000 in 2021—of which 77 percent were children aged under five. Meanwhile, global malaria cases rose slightly to 247 million.