HOPE: Malaria vaccine may eliminate killer disease

Homa Bay County Health Direcor Dr Gordon Okomo speaks to journalists at his office. Homa Bay County has one of the highest malaria prevalence. PHOTO/George Omondi, The Scholar Media Africa.

Homa Bay County is pegging its hopes of eliminating Malaria following the approval for use of malaria vaccine by World Health Organization (WHO) recently.

The county has one of the highest malaria prevalence rates in the country.

Other counties on the red list include those along the lake region- Migori, Siaya, Kisumu, Vihiga and Kakamega.

Homa Bay County has a bigger burden because of other prevailing conditions.

With other diseases like tuberculosis and HIV which weakens the immunity, malaria has contributed to many deaths in the county.

Children below five years and expectant women are often the major casualties.

County Immunization Services Coordinator Christine Ongete said the vaccine has brought hope to residents especially those who have underlying illnesses.

“Malaria remains one of the major cause of childhood illness and death in our county.

We have other disease burden and malaria infection on someone already suffering from other diseses means death,” she said.

“The vaccine will go a long way in reducing the disease burden.”

In September 2019, WHO rolled out a malaria vaccination programme in Homa Bay.

The programme is being conducted on pilot basis.

Kenya is among three African countries where the pilot programme is being conducted.

Others are Malawi and Ghana 

Ms Ongete said doctors in Homa Bay have started recording a decline in infections.

“We believe this is what doctors in other regions where the pilot programme is being conducted are getting the same results. This is why WHO approved its full rollout,” she said.

According to the County Health Directory Dr. Gordon Okomo, Malaria prevalence is now 18 per cent down from 26 per cent in 2019. 

Dr. Okomo attributed the reduction to malaria vaccine and other prevention interventions like indoor residual spraying and distribution of mosquito nets.

“We have seen tremendous changes in infections rates particularly in children getting the vaccine.

Children under the age one who were greatly affected are not getting the disease in areas where the vaccine is being administered,” he said. 

Dr Okomo said no case of death or adverse effects of the vaccine was reported during the pilot programme.

Malaria vaccination in Homa Bay is being conducted in all health facilities in three Sub counties- Ndhiwa, Rachuonyo East and Homa Bay.

It is administered in four doses- at six months, seven months, nine months and at two years for the fist, second, third and fourth dose respectively.

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