Doses of Hope

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Cameroon on Monday launched the world’s first regular vaccine program against malaria, a move aimed at fighting the mosquito-borne disease that kills hundreds of thousands of children in Africa every year, the BBC reported.

The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed a historic moment in the fight against malaria as the first jabs were given to infants under six months.

The disease kills 4,000 people in Cameroon alone and 600,000 across the continent every year, according to WHO statistics. Most of the deaths are children under the age of five.

The medicine rolled out in the program is the RTS,S vaccine, developed by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline after 30 years of research. It has proven to be effective in one out of three cases.

Despite its arguably low efficacy rate, scientists argued it was an essential part of the struggle against malaria. Combined with tablets and mosquito nets, the jab contributes to up to 90 percent protection in children, they concluded in their study.

Furthermore, pilot campaigns of the vaccines in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi resulted in a 13 percent drop in child malaria deaths.

However, the vaccination program faces challenges.

Some Cameroonians, doubting the vaccine’s efficacy and safety, are hesitant to get inoculated and believe they are being used as “guinea pigs,” according to health specialists. They added that there was a need to educate the public.

Meanwhile, the demand exceeds dose availability, with only 18 million set to be released by 2025.

Nonetheless, the general reaction to the vaccine has been that of relief and hope, further fueled by plans to roll out a second jab developed by Oxford University. The new drug is to be manufactured by an Indian institute at an announced rate of 100 million doses per year, once greenlit by the WHO.

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