Posts or Comments 24 June 2024

Vaccine Bill Brieger | 16 May 2024 05:18 am

Expanding Access of Malaria Vaccinations in Vihiga County Benefits All of Kenya

The class blog for Social and Behavioral Foundations of PHC features a posting by Alice Calhoun on the importance of pilot implementation of the new malaria vaccine in Kenya. Her comments are found below.

Since 2019, significant improvements in death rates and hospitalizations from malaria in young children have been made in Kenya after initiating the pilot malaria vaccine trial, Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) involving children under 2 years old. Under the leadership and support from WHO, GAVI, and PATH and many other stakeholders, Kenya was able to benefit from the RTS,S vaccine that was developed for over 35 years by GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. As the vaccination program continues in Western Kenya, parents in Vihiga County have noted that their children who have been vaccinated are less sick than their older siblings. The 4 part vaccination series typically begins at age 6 months with its completion at 24 months.

Malaria prevention must have a multi-faceted approach to be successful in eradicating this terrible disease from the community. This includes using insecticide treated bednets, indoor spraying, rapid diagnosis and treatment of active malaria, and malaria prevention during pregnancy. By using education and collaboration with groups such as the Kenya Malaria Youth Army, community health workers (CHW) are the key to disseminating information to the villages and encouraging mothers to complete the series for their children. CHW are also providing catch up vaccinations for other diseases while supporting the malaria campaign in Kenya by handing out bednets.

Now is the time for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to expand the vaccine program to all children under 5 years of age, some of whom missed out on the initial set of vaccines due to vaccine hesitancy during the COVID pandemic. The benefits have been seen by the community in Vihiga County and the attitudes of the mothers are now overwhelmingly positive. Due to the dedication of the CHW and the Immunization Coordinator, nurse Edith Anjere, Vihiga County has the highest rate of childhood immunization coverage in Kenya: up to 96% of children as surveyed in 2022.

Vihiga County is the perfect community to capture more children in the vaccination program since the health infrastructure is already in place as well as an openness in the community to continue vaccinating our children. The MOH can support this nationwide campaign against malaria by allowing other vulnerable children access to RTS,S in Vihiga County, serving as a model program for other counties. Kenya has been at the forefront of the malaria vaccination program and will continue to inspire other countries in Africa to work toward this goal of keeping our most vulnerable citizens healthier.


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