Niger to vaccinate children against malaria
Niger has approved the vaccination of children under the age of five against malaria with a ground-breaking British vaccine, the health minister has told AFP.
Malaria killed 4,000 people in the impoverished Sahel nation in 2021, most of them young children.
"The government of Niger has given a green light to use... the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine for children from birth to five years old," Illiassou Mainassara said late Thursday.
"This vaccine will arrive in Niger in the coming months, and we are already preparing for it," he added.
A cabinet statement said Niger was one of the countries approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the anti-malaria campaign.
In October 2021, the WHO recommended "broad use" of the world's first malaria vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa after reviewing a pilot programme run in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
The RTS,S vaccine, which is made by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, was found to considerably reduce child mortality from the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is most prevalent in Africa.
More than a million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, the WHO said last week.
Niger lost 4,170 lives to malaria last year and recorded four million cases.
Niger's national coordinator for the fight against malaria, Djermakoye Hadiza Jackou, said 50 percent of cases and nearly 60 percent of deaths in the country concerned children under five.
A combination of vaccination and prevention such as mosquito nets should see the number of cases fall by at least 75 percent, she said.
WHO estimates that 627,000 people died of malaria worldwide in 2020, the latest year for which figures are available -- an increase of 12 percent over 2019.
Sub-Saharan Africa is where 95 percent of all malaria cases and 96 percent of all deaths occur.
Records of the disease date back to antiquity, with symptoms including fever, headaches and muscle pain, followed by cycles of chills, fever and sweating.
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