Namibia considers malaria vaccine

Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe is optimistic that the vaccine will drastically reduce the cross-border transmission of malaria and allow government to redeploy resources to other pressing public health issues.

12 October 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES







WINDHOEK

Namibia, one of the African countries most afflicted by malaria, is optimistic that the roll-out of the newly approved malaria vaccine will fast-track the country’s aim to eliminate the disease by 2023.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week recommended the broad roll-out of the malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.

This recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.

Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe said Namibia has “one of the highest malaria incidences and there is a tool that will help us effectively deal with this problem”.

“It will mean saving lives, having our children go to school without interruption and saving money in terms of what we are currently use for indoor residual spraying, procurement of insecticides and the whole logistics. It will also reduce the cost of mosquito nets,” he said.

Nangombe is optimistic that the vaccine will drastically reduce the cross-border transmission of malaria and allow government to redeploy resources to other pressing public health issues, such as HIV/Aids.

Namibia has not yet decided when the roll-out of this vaccine will commence or how much it would budget to acquire the medicine.

“First, we need to have our experts study the situation, look at the data, look at the pros and cons of the whole thing. If we have to roll, we have to make several considerations and the questions can only be answered after we have determined what the cost benefits are in terms of rolling it out and making it part our programme,” Nangombe said.

Upsurge in cases

Still widespread in the country, Namibia that has seen an upsurge in malaria morbidity and mortality over the last four years.

The country recorded 12 507 cases in 2020, an enormous increase from the 2 841 reported in 2019.

Over the years, the Kavango regions have topped the country's malaria statistics, largely because of the high rainfall levels in these areas. These regions recorded 5 914 of the total cases last year, a whopping 47.3%.

The Kavango River is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite.

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