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Benin receives 215,900 doses of malaria vaccine

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The Beninese government has received 215,900 doses of malaria vaccine at the Cotonou International Airport and will begin administering in February.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Beninese Minister of Health, Benjamin Hounkpatin, said the doses of vaccine were acquired by the government with the support of its partners in the health sector.

The partners included the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund, and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, which is an important step towards widespread vaccination against one of the most deadly diseases for African children.

“The introduction of the malaria vaccine into the Expanded Programme on Immunisation is a major step forward in the fight against this disease in Benin”, the minister said.

Hounkpatin added that the administration of the malaria vaccine in highly endemic areas would make it possible to control the disease and save tens of thousands of lives every year.

“The combination of vaccination with other measures to combat malaria, such as the use of insecticide-impregnated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women, and use of antimalarial drugs will help to significantly reduce malaria-related deaths”, he said.

Malaria remains endemic in Benin and is the leading cause of death among children under five, accounting for 40 per cent of outpatient consultations and 25 per cent of all hospital admissions in the country.

The PUNCH reported in December that WHO added the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine to its list of prequalified vaccines.

In October 2023, WHO recommended its use for the prevention of malaria in children following the advice of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group.

The prequalification means larger access to vaccines as a key tool to prevent malaria in children with it being a prerequisite for vaccine procurement by UNICEF and funding support for deployment by Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

The Nigerian government, in October last year, said there was high hope that Nigeria would get the newly recommended R21/Matrix-M vaccine for the prevention of malaria in children by mid-2024.

The Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH.

“WHO has to prioritise Nigeria because Nigeria has a population of kids with malaria burden, so they have to look at places where the burden of malaria is high and prioritise those countries. So, there is hope that Nigeria will get it in mid-2024.

“We are working with our partner, Gavi, and it is a priority for us. We will announce the date when Nigeria will get it in the next few days but it is great news that the WHO has recommended the vaccine”, Shuaib said.

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