Accelerating the fight against Malaria through vaccination


    Research organization NOIPolls survey indicates that 34% of Nigerians reported to have treated Malaria every two months making it the most worrisome health challenge in the country. The question is will you be willing to get vaccinated if the Malaria vaccine is made available in Nigeria, Our Correspondent *ERE-EBI Agedah IMISI writes.

    On Tuesday, NOIPolls hosted a convergence in Abuja with the theme ‘Malaria Vaccine: Accelerating Development, Strengthening Efforts’ against the backdrop of a survey conducted by NOIPolls between April and May this year to feel the pulse of Nigerians regarding malaria and malaria vaccine.

    The survey revealed that a lot of households in Nigeria are battling to keep malaria disease away from them and their families every month, stressing that malaria remains the most deadly and worrisome disease, thereby needing urgent intervention.

    According to WHO data, more than 30 countries have areas with moderate to high malaria transmission, while in 2020, nearly half a million children died from malaria in Africa alone, a rate of one child death per minute.

    On April 17, 2023, Nigeria approved a promising new malaria vaccine called R21. Nigeria is a country in need of protection from malaria. Its death toll from the disease makes up nearly a third of the world’s 619,000 malaria deaths a year.

    With this, NOIPOlls and other stakeholders brainstormed on the need to accelerate the fight against malaria through vaccination, education and government intervention and there was a public presentation on key findings of the malaria disease poll report by NOIPolls.

    It is interesting to note that the survey poll cuts across gender, geographical locations and age groups in Nigeria.

    Citing the 2021 World Malaria Report NOI stated that, “Nigeria had the highest number of global malaria cases (27 percent of global malaria cases) and the highest number of deaths (32 percent of global malaria deaths) in 2020. In addition, Nigeria accounted for an estimated 55.2 percent of malaria cases in West Africa in 2020.”

    Delivering a keynote address, Prof Olusegun Ademowo of the University College Hospital Ibadan inquired on the delay in creating a vaccine by the World Health Organisation, WHO.

    According to Prof Ademowo, “It has taken WHO 50 years to develop malaria vaccine’’. He stated that we have two vaccines that would be effective which are RTS, S and R21 vaccines.

    ‘’‘Our concern right now is how we can make those vaccines available for use from the level it is presently for malaria endemic countries.”

    He noted that there could be some level of vaccine hesitancy as in the case of Covid-19, hence the need for awareness and advocacy to increase public acceptance of the vaccine.

    As NOIPolls is championing the conversation on Malaria Vaccine it is important to state that the vaccine could provide protection against malaria to over 25 million children each year once supply is implemented.

    Earlier, NOIPolls CEO, Dr Chike Nwangwu, in his opening remark, stated that Nigeria has one of the highest malaria burdens in the world, although significant efforts has been geared towards curbing and eradicating the disease.

    According to Mr Nwangwu, the public opinion poll conducted revealed that the majority of Nigerians reported malaria to be the most worrisome health challenge in the country, adding that among the 48 per cent of respondents who reported that they visited the hospital because of illness, 88 per cent reported that they were diagnosed with malaria.

    In addition, the poll found that 29 per cent use Artemisinin-based combination therapies, ACTs for the treatment of malaria, seven per cent use Paracetamol, and one per cent use herbs as medication for the treatment of malaria, a practice that might not be safe.

    “The survey shows that malaria disease is pervasive with as many as seven in 10 treating malaria in the past three months. However, only 41 per cent of Nigerians go to the hospital when they experience malaria symptoms. Nigerians are willing to take action to prevent the spread of malaria as most Nigerians admitted having insecticide-treated nets (ITN). Although only about one in five Nigerians are aware of the vaccine, almost nine in 10 Nigerians would be willing to get vaccinated against the disease.” He said.

    Also, in attendance was the representative of NAFDAC that assured of the agency’s readiness to ensure that the vaccine when delivered to Nigeria, meets best international standard.

    Like we pointed out earlier, it is estimated that Nigeria has one of the highest malaria burdens in the world with an estimated 100 million cases and over 300, 000 deaths recorded yearly.

    However, the poll noted that Malaria disease is pervasive with as many as 7 in 10 (71%) treating malaria in the past three months while 41 percent go to hospitals for treatment.

    As we await the malaria vaccine, we are encouraged to sleep under insecticides ITN and keep our environments clean.