Kenya joins Ghana and Malawi in rolling out vaccine to more children at risk
Nairobi, Kenya—Expansion of malaria vaccination is underway in more areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, which began piloting the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine in selected areas in 2019, have begun phased expansion to additional children in the pilot areas.
At the same time, other African countries are applying to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for support as they consider malaria introduction in areas of greatest need.
On March 7, Kenya’s Ministry of Health announced it was providing RTS,S in a total of 51 sub-counties, almost doubling the number of areas that have been receiving the vaccine in the malaria-endemic Lake Victoria region. Both Ghana and Malawi have also announced initial expansions in the use of RTS,S, the first vaccine recommended for use by the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent malaria in children.
Additional steps for the three countries will include applying for Gavi support for broader subnational use of RTS,S after 2023, beginning with areas of greatest need. For the pilots, financing is provided through a collaboration involving Gavi, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid. To support expansion in the pilot areas, US-based Open Philanthropy has provided a grant to PATH that will allow scale-up of malaria vaccine use through 2023, using vaccine doses donated by GSK, the manufacturer, and in collaboration with WHO and other in-country partners.
"We are proud to be a partner in the expanded rollout of the RTS,S malaria vaccine, an important additional tool to prevent malaria in children," said Carolyne Njuguna, PATH Kenya Country Director.
For additional countries, phased introduction of malaria vaccination could begin as soon as late 2023. A dozen African countries have already applied for Gavi funding for subnational introduction. Even as malaria vaccination expands, however, there is considerable work to do to increase vaccine supply. WHO, Gavi, UNICEF, PATH, GSK, and other partners continue to work toward increasing malaria vaccine supply as rapidly as possible.
Background on the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine
RTS,S/AS01 is the first malaria vaccine recommended and prequalified by WHO, and the first vaccine to receive a positive scientific opinion from a stringent regulatory authority (the European Medicines Agency). It was approved for use in pilot areas by the regulatory authorities of Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. The pilot introduction of the vaccine began in 2019 and is ongoing through 2023. RTS,S was developed by GSK over more than 35 years and in partnership with PATH since 2001, with catalytic funding provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to PATH for late-stage development of RTS,S between 2001 and 2015. PATH continues efforts to accelerate the development of next-generation vaccines and biologics, working with a wide range of academic, business, and governmental organizations, and continues to support research on the optimal use of RTS,S.
For more information on the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme, see here; additional information on RTS,S is available here, and a story about the vaccine’s use in Malawi is here.
PATH is a global nonprofit dedicated to ending health inequity. With more than 40 years of experience forging multisector partnerships, and with expertise in science, economics, technology, advocacy, and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales up innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing public health challenges. Learn more at www.path.org. Learn more about PATH’s malaria vaccine efforts at www.malariavaccine.org.