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The first-ever malaria vaccine is on its way to Africa.

Twelve countries have been identified to receive 18 million doses of the next two years.

The rollout is a massive step towards fighting one of the leading causes of death in Africa.

According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimates that in 2021 there were about 619 000 deaths due to malaria in Africa alone.

The vaccine, named the RTS,S/AS01 underwent a pilot phase in 2019 in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana.

During this phase, about 1.7 million children were safely vaccinated.

In a joint statement released by WHO and Unicef, it said that “at least 28 African countries have expressed interest in receiving the malaria vaccine”.

The 12 countries identified to receive the vaccine first are Benin, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Niger and Uganda.

“The first doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in countries during the last quarter of 2023, with countries starting to roll them out by early 2024,” according to the statement.

News24 reports that the managing director of Country Programmes Deliver at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Thabani Maphosa, said the vaccine would be impactful if distributed fairly.

“This vaccine has the potential to be very impactful in the fight against malaria, and when broadly deployed alongside other interventions, it can prevent tens of thousands of future deaths every year.”

Image credit: Everyday Health

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