“The vaccine saves lives but it will not be a silver bullet,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, CEO of Amref Health Africa, a non-governmental organization.
The vaccine, called Mosquirix, targets the deadly malaria parasite and the most common in Africa – Plasmodium falciparum. Although vaccines are “a huge addition to the fight against malaria,” Dr. Gitahi said health officials still need to implement “a Swiss cheese strategy,” which includes pesticide-treated bed nets and internal sprays.
Faith Walucho is an 11-month-old baby who was recently diagnosed with malaria. A 22-year-old used clothing retailer in the western Kenyan town of Kisumu said he had received news of the vaccine “with great pleasure”. In Kenya, an estimated 10,700 deaths from malaria were recorded, and Kisumu is one of the high-malaria regions on the shores of Lake Victoria where the vaccine was tested.
As soon as she was able to get a dose for her daughter, Mrs. Walucho said, “I’ll run” to get it.
In Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, 5-year-old 52-year-old Jenala Mawafulirwa welcomed the news of the vaccine, saying many children in her family had died of the disease, especially in rural areas where health care was limited.
He said the vaccine came at the right time.
But in some places, people have expressed skepticism about the vaccine because of distrust of the World Health Organization.
“I wonder why they want to help Africa,” said Mamadou Tauncara, a 40-year-old teacher in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. He asked why the WHO did not fund improved hygiene and sanitation systems instead. “If the WHO wants to help eradicate the disease, they can do it without the vaccine.”
Yet public health officials say the vaccine, developed over more than 90 years, has already proven to be an important weapon in the fight against the disease.