Africans Welcome New Malaria Vaccine. But Is It a ‘Game Changer’?
“The vaccine saves lives but it will not be a silver bullet,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, the chief executive officer for Amref Health Africa, a nongovernmental organization.
The vaccine, called Mosquirix, targets the deadliest malaria parasite and the most common in Africa — Plasmodium falciparum. While the vaccines are a “huge addition to the fight” against malaria, said Dr. Gitahi, health officials will still have to deploy “a Swiss cheese strategy,” which includes insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying.
Faith Walucho is the mother of an 11-month-old who was recently diagnosed with malaria. The 29-year-old trader of used clothing in the city of Kisumu in western Kenya said she received the news about the vaccines “with a lot of happiness.” In Kenya, an estimated 10,700 deaths from malaria are recorded annually, and Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, is one of the high-malaria regions where the vaccine was tested.
As soon as she’s able to get a dose for her daughter, Ms. Walucho said, “I will run” to get it.
In Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, Jenala Mwafulirwa, a 52-year-old mother of five, welcomed the news of the vaccine, saying that too many children in her family had been lost to the disease, particularly in rural areas where access to health care is limited.
“This vaccine has come at the right time,” she said.
But in some places, people voiced skepticism about the vaccine, in part because of mistrust of the World Health Organization.
“I wonder why they want to help Africa,” said Mamadou Tounkara, a 40-year-old-teacher in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. He asked why the W.H.O. did not instead fund better hygiene and sanitation systems. “If W.H.O. wants to help eradicate this disease, they can do it without the vaccine.”
Yet public health officials say the vaccine, which has been in development for more than 30 years, has already proved to be an important weapon in the war against the disease.