Beginning of a new chapter; Malawi, Ghana, Kenya invited to apply for first-ever malaria vaccine

Gavi, the global Vaccine Alliance, is opening its first application window for support in rolling out the first-ever malaria vaccine, to protect children against a disease that kills hundreds of thousands in Africa and Malawi, Ghana, Kenya have been to apply by September 13.

In October, 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the world’s first malaria vaccine — a game changer in the fight against malaria — providing another vital public health tool against a disease that claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

Dr. Seth Berkley

In making another critical step towards rollout in countries with a significant burden of P. falciparum malaria, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance now opens windows for applications from the lower-income countries it supports — Malawi being one of them.

A statement from Geneva says the application window follows the WHO’s recommendation for wider routine use of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine in October 2021 and a subsequent decision by the Gavi Board in December 2021 to approve an initial investment of US$155.7 million for the 2022–2025 period.

Malaria vaccination was additionally supported by a US$56 million investment through a ‘de-risk’ agreement with manufacturer GSK and innovative financing partner MedAccess, says the statement.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti

In recognition of the technical requirements of rollout and the need to provide tailored support to countries, a first application window, which closes 13 September, will be limited to the three countries that have taken part in the vaccine’s multi-year pilot programme — Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.

A second window, which opens at the end of the year and closes in January, is open to other countries with moderate to high transmission of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. These countries can already submit expressions of interest (EoIs) during the first funding window to signal interest and provide them with the needed support to submit quality applications.

Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley is quoted as saying: “The work towards a malaria vaccine has been long and hard. Today we begin a new chapter: alongside existing interventions, this new tool will allow us to save more lives in countries hit hardest by this killer disease.”

The statement further says the introduction of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine builds on successful implementation pilots and will be the first ever widespread malaria vaccination programme.

Alongside currently recommended malaria control interventions — and alongside these existing protections — it could help drive down child mortality in Africa, the continent that bears the heaviest malaria burden.

According to Gavi, more than 260,000 African children under the age of five years old die from malaria annually, and six Gavi-eligible countries account for 50% of global mortality.

“One child dies of malaria every minute in Africa, and we must do everything possible to stop this trend,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa is quoted as saying.

“The new funding opportunity will make the world’s only malaria vaccine more accessible to African children. If delivered to scale, the vaccine will help to prevent millions of cases of malaria, save tens of thousands of lives and ensure a brighter future for the continent.”

The statement also said alongside an announcement by WHO of finalization of the vaccine allocation framework to facilitate transparent and equitable allocation of limited vaccine supplies and UNICEF’s procurement agreement for the RTS,S vaccine, Gavi’s application guidelines are based on targeted support that will grow as volumes of available doses increase through an expected ramp-up in production.

Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF’s supply and procurement headquarters is quoted as saying: “A vaccine has been the missing piece in the malaria toolkit since UNICEF first took up the fight against malaria decades ago, making this very welcome news.

“We look forward to working with Gavi, WHO and other partners to bring this vaccine to the children who need it.”

The Alliance and other partners will also work with countries to provide orientation and technical assistance to ensure quality planning and country readiness in view of future application windows.

Applications will be reviewed by the Gavi Independent Review Committee (IRC), and successful applicants will then have a period of implementation planning support before rollout.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 900 million children – and prevented more than 15 million future deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 lower-income countries.

Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines.

After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching zero dose children remaining deprived of even a single vaccine shot still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency.

Gavi is a co-convener of COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), UNICEF and the WHO.

In its role Gavi is focused on procurement and delivery for COVAX — coordinating the design, implementation and administration of the COVAX Facility and the Gavi COVAX AMC and working with its Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments, on country readiness and delivery.

The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners.

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