21st June 2024
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South Sudan receives 645,000 doses of malaria vaccine

Author: Obaj Okuj | Published: Friday, May 31, 2024

Malaria vaccine doses arrive at JIA. (Photo/Awan Moses)

South Sudan government received 645,000 doses of Malaria Vaccine on Friday, intended for distribution across 28 counties grappling with the highest malaria rates.

A cargo jet carrying the doses landed at Juba International Airport in the morning and the shipment was handed over to Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi Akol and Minister of Health Yolanda Awel Deng.

The major supply of vaccine is a collaborative effort, jointly facilitated by the World Health Organization, Gavi, UNICEF, the UK government and other health partners.

The initial shipment targets the most heavily affected regions, with plans underway for broader distribution across the nation.

The donors said introducing this malaria vaccine into existing prevention strategies holds immense potential to safeguard countless young lives, not only in South Sudan but across Africa.

Speaking to the media upon arrival of the doses, Vice President Abdelbagi emphasized the vaccine’s pivotal role in protecting children from malaria.

“The arrival of 645 thousand four hundred doses of malaria Vaccines represent hope and progress in our collective effort to safeguard our children and communities’ health,” Abdelbagi.

“Globally, malaria remain a major public health challenge with 241 million cases & 627,000 deaths in 2020 alone Sub-Shari African has the highest burden while in South Sudan.”

Malaria stands as the leading cause of child mortality in South Sudan, claiming thousands of lives annually.

Recent statistics from a 2022 report show an alarming 2.8 million cases and 6,680 deaths.

With an estimated 7,630 cases daily and 18 fatalities, the country bears one of the region’s highest malaria burdens.

For her part, the Minister of Health Yolanda Awel said South Sudan is among the 3 countries in East African to receive the malaria vaccine.

“I am proud to say that South Sudan is among the three countries in the East African Community who have the vaccine,” he said.

Yolanda added that the country is also among about 20 African countries, as well as over 30 countries in the world, who have joined the malaria immunization campaigns.

‘The vaccination is already being done in India, it has already been done in China it’s already been done in some other countries like Egypt,” she said.

Obia Achien, the representative of UNICEF South Sudan said the program will be implemented with the UN health agency in collaboration with communities through the BOMA Health Initiative.

She said the country-wide vaccination campaign will be launched in July 2024.

“As the campaign gets launched in July, the race to save the children’s lives continues, and UNICEF is committed to run that race with the people of South Sudan with the Mothers of South Sudan,” Achien said.

In December 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the R21/Matrix-M vaccine for the prevention of malaria in children.

The recommendation follows advice from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group (MPAG), and was endorsed by the WHO Director-General.

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

Both vaccines are shown to be safe and effective in preventing malaria in children and are expected to have high public health impact.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, places a particularly high burden on children in the African Region, where nearly half a million children die from the disease each year.

WHO Country Representative, Dr. Humphrey Karamagi, said the introduction of the malaria vaccine is a pivotal development in the fight against malaria.

“Today is really transformative for us in addition to this vaccine which we are introducing as one of the weapons in the fight against malaria,” Karamagi said.

“We have been putting in place a lot of other interventions making use of residual spraying, prompt diagnosis, and treatment protection of pregnant mothers and other initiatives.”

“So this vaccine really adds to our Arsenal of interventions that will help us in managing the malaria burden.”

“We are committed to support the government in ensuring that this vaccine is available in all the 80 countries counties of South Sudan eventually and we are quite confident that this will both the malaria.”

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