By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday endorsed the first-ever vaccine for malaria after many years of waiting.
This has been regarded as a historical event as the drug would save the lives of tens of thousands of children lost to the disease in Africa each year.
Malaria is among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases with data showing that it kills about half a million people each year, nearly all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — among them 260,000 children under age 5.
Called Mosquirix, the new malaria vaccine is given in three doses between ages 5 and 17 months, and a fourth dose roughly 18 months later.
Following the clinical trials, the vaccine was tried out in three countries — Kenya, Malawi and Ghana — where it was incorporated into routine immunization programs.
More than 2.3 million doses have been administered in those countries, reaching more than 800,000 children. That bumped up the percentage of children protected against malaria in some way to more than 90 per cent from less than 70 per cent
The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa.
The vaccine is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease.
Speaking on the feat, Dr Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s global malaria programme said, “To have a malaria vaccine that is safe, moderately effective and ready for distribution is a historical event.”
For more than 100 years, malaria research has had various vaccine candidates that never made it past clinical trials but the results with Mosquirix makes it the outlier.
This is set to replace bed nets which are considered the most widespread preventive measure as it cuts malaria deaths in children under age 5 by about 20 per cent.
Against that backdrop, the new vaccine, even with modest efficacy, is the best new development in the fight against the disease in decades, some experts said.
This week, a working group of independent experts in malaria, child health epidemiology and statistics, as well as the WHO’s vaccine advisory group, met to review data from the pilot programmes and make their formal recommendation to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the global health body.
The next step is for Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, to determine that the vaccine is a worthwhile investment. If the organization’s board approves the vaccine, it will purchase the vaccine for countries that request it, a process that is expected to take at least a year.
FG to Support Cholera-riddled Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has said that it is currently stepping up the technical support and guidance it is giving the states of the federation worst hit by cholera.
This was disclosed by the Director of Family Health department at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Salma Anas Kolo.
She disclosed that Kano, Jigawa and Bauchi are the states worst hit by cholera in the country, noting that more than 48 per cent of the cases reported in the country are from the three sub-nationals.
“Efforts are ongoing by the health ministry in collaboration with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to continue to provide support to the states through the national response in a well-coordinated manner.
“We continue step up in providing technical support and guidance to the states that are worst affected by cholera. “At the moment we have recorded some slow progress and success in the worst affected states.
“We have conducted some trainings for health workers for early detection and prompt treatment of victims of cholera outbreak.
“Unfortunately, the outbreak is among children between the age of 5-14 years. This is closely link to lack of access to portable clean water and also poor defecation practices and poor hygiene,” she said.
Dr Anas Kolo, however, said that the ministry was intensifying its collaboration with partners on the need to re-invigorate the Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) programme in the relevant sectors of the economy considering it requires multi-sectoral approach.
“It has to do with sanitation, toileting facilities available and personal hygiene. We are working closely with the ministries of water resources, information and culture and the ministry of environment who are very critical partners in this.
“We have developed a framework at the national level that require to be operationalized at the state level to adopt similar approach so that the populace, especially, in the worst affected areas can have access to clean water,” she said.
The Director further explained that: “Part of the response we have undertaken is the distribution of essential response commodities at the point of need including hygiene kits for affected states, using traditional medium of information transmission in most of the worst affected states.
“Hand washing is very important in the prevention of the cholera. At any time, you are handling food, hand washing is very key with running water and soap. Where soap is not available, we encourage the use of ashes and table salt.”
She further advised pregnant women in the country to attend ante natal care at the health centres nearest to them in order to access services including test HIV and Syphilis.
This, according to her, is to prevent Mother-To-Child transmission of HIV.
“This is an opportunity for us to call on all Nigerian pregnant women to attend antenatal clinic at any nearest health facility to them and get themselves tested for HIV and Syphilis.
“By doing that we can prevent the transmission of HIV from the infected mother to the unborn baby and avert the transmission of Syphilis which is also very dangerous to the unborn baby.
“It causes still-birth, miscarriages and death and brain damage leading to malformation to the unborn baby. It also affects the heart. So implications are so numerous.
“So it is cheaper and more cost effective to prevent the transmission of Syphilis from an infected mother to the child. The good news is that both are almost 100 preventable. But only if women that are pregnant avail themselves to be tested of syphilis,” the health expert stated.
COVID-19: Nigeria to Start Vaccination of Children
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
In a few months’ time, Nigeria will commence administering vaccines to children under 12 years to protect them against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
This vaccination of children against the virus would be done in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The UNICEF Health Specialist and Officer in charge of Enugu Field Office, Mr Olusoji Akinleye, said during a recent media executive meeting in the state that it had taken so long for this to be implemented because of the cluttered processes involved before any drug would be administered to children.
Speaking at the event, which was in collaboration with Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA), Umuahia, on Child Rights-influenced Reporting on COVID-19, the specialist said that a lot of children had died due to the COVID-19, adding that, “In the next few months, Nigeria will start administering the vaccine on children under 12 years of age.”
He said, “We recognize the partnership in promoting and highlighting the right of every child to life. The very first right that every human being is supposed to have is the right to life; we recognise that the media have always supported the effort of government and partners, including UNICEF, in promoting the right to health.”
Noting the challenges faced by the health sector regarding public hesitancy, unwillingness, and misconceptions against the COVID-19 vaccines, Mr Akinleye encouraged parents to ensure that their children were protected by obeying the safety protocols that have been put in place.
In addition to this, he said, “UNICEF looks forward to more robust collaboration with the media and an expected upward trend in the promotion of health and hygiene practices by the media in Nigeria by daily communication to the public of protocols enforced by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Lagos to Host Conference on Biosecurity, One Health
By Sodeinde Temidayo David
The Lagos State Government has announced the plan to hold the seventh Annual African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity as part of efforts to ensure that the Africa continent braces up for the challenges posed by emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity threats.
The conference is in partnership with Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET) and is scheduled to hold both virtually and physically at the Civic Centre at Lagos from Wednesday, October 27 to Friday, October 29, 2021, with the theme Universal Approach to Addressing Biosecurity Threats – Genomic Intelligence and Vaccines.
Interested participants have been advised to visit the GET website to register and attend the hybrid conference.
According to the state Commissioner for Health, Mr Akin Abayomi, the conference is seventh in the series of conferences organised by GET, in partnership with governments around West Africa and the African continent, to help develop a biosecurity road map and to increase resilience in dealing with pathogens of high consequence.
Mr Abayomi expressed the need to continually focus on the key importance of the African response in combating emerging infectious diseases.
He stated that the need for various treatment strategies and preparedness against future biosecurity threats necessitated the need for the conference.
“Lagos has teamed up once again this year with GET to organise the seventh African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity. We have a very important thematic initiative this year to address the universal approach to biosecurity threats using genomic intelligence and vaccine,” the commissioner noted.
He further explained that genomic intelligence is the ability to sequence a pathogen that is causing an outbreak, adding that COVID-19 is the focus of attention for the conference.
As stated by him, genomic intelligence should be vigorous, with significant measures taken to mitigate the potency of current and future epidemics as well as keeping up with effective vaccine production.
Mr Abayomi further explained that the conference’s thematic areas cover Vaccine Strategy, Genome Research, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Biosecurity and Bio-threat, Biobanking Infrastructure, Climate change and Cultural Anthropological Social and Economic Impact of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He also advocated various treatment strategies and preparedness against future biosecurity threats as he stated the key importance of the African response in combating Emerging Infectious Diseases,
He stated that Lagos is prepared to welcome participants, policymakers, researchers, scientists and other interested persons to the conference, adding that the concept of One Health is necessary for ensuring biosecurity and all-around health.
In his remarks, the Chief Operating Officer of GET Consortium, Mr Ayodotun Bobadoye, noted that participants at the conference will include policymakers, scientists, researchers, healthcare professionals, experts in infectious disease management, professionals from one health field, development partners, community and opinion leaders amongst others from within and outside the continent.
Mr Bobadoye further noted that resolutions at the conference will help chart a positive course for strategic response against Biosecurity threats in Africa and by extension the world.
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