South Sudan: South Sudan got its first batch of a new malaria vaccine on Friday from the U.N. health agency, an important step in efforts to battle a disease that is the biggest killer of children in this African country.

The more than 645,000 doses of the R21 malaria vaccine received will be distributed across 28 counties with the highest malaria burden.

In 2022, South Sudan had an estimated 2.8 million cases and 6,680 deaths from malaria. It has one of the region’s highest rates of malaria incidence, with an estimated 7,630 cases and 18 people dying of the disease every day, according to the World Health Organisation.

South Sudan’s health minister, Yolanda Awel Deng, said the new vaccine, alongside other preventive measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets and timely access to medical care, will be instrumental in a push to eliminate malaria.

Others also welcomed the development.

UNICEF South Sudan Representative Hamida Lasseko said that the “governments’ proactive engagement and health systems’ preparedness are pivotal in facilitating the successful rollout of the immunisation program.”

Dr Humphrey Karamagi, WHO’s representative for South Sudan, said the integration of the vaccine into routine immunisation will “enhance our ability to deliver comprehensive malaria prevention to those most at risk.”

The R21 vaccine was the second malaria vaccine recommended by WHO in 2023, after the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, which received a WHO recommendation in 2021.

The R21 vaccine has been hailed as a cheaper and a more readily available option. Research suggests it is more than 75 per cent effective and that protection is maintained for at least another year with a booster.

  • Published On Jun 1, 2024 at 07:01 AM IST

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