NAIROBI, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Kenya is adequately prepared to roll out a new malaria vaccine starting next year to help contain a tropical disease that is a leading killer of pregnant mothers and children under five years, the UN health agency said on Wednesday.
"Planning for the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program (MVIP) in Kenya is on track with rollout of the vaccine scheduled to begin in 2018," the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were selected for the pilot phase of the malaria vaccine implementation by WHO thanks to investments in modern infrastructure and personnel to facilitate its deployment.
The RTS, S malaria vaccine has already undergone vigorous testing to ascertain its safety and efficacy when administered on young African children who are vulnerable to the mosquito-transmitted disease.
According to the WHO, an estimated 10,000 children from seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa have received the vaccine during Phase-Three clinical trials carried out in 2009 -2014.
"The vaccine was considered to have an acceptable safety profile by a stringent medicines regulatory authority and will not be given to children in Kenya unless the pharmacy and poisons board approves its use," the WHO said.
Rudi Eggers, the WHO representative in Kenya, said the new malaria vaccine is not only safe and efficacious but has the capacity to contain a disease that remains a major public health challenge in the East African nation.
"As with any new vaccine or drug, parents and families may have questions about vaccine safety. Global safety experts have made clear that when four doses of this vaccine are provided, its benefits outweighs the risks," Eggers said.
He added that WHO will collaborate with Kenya's ministry of health and independent experts to monitor the safety of the new malaria vaccine and respond promptly to emerging concerns.
The Kenyan ministry of health will implement the malaria vaccine program in partnership with WHO and global health agency, PATH.
It will be administered to children in health facilities through a four-dose schedule at ages 6, 7, 9 and 24 months.
The malaria vaccine will complement existing interventions to contain the disease that includes use of insecticide-treated nets, artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) and indoor spraying.
Kenya's head of National Vaccine Immunization Program, Collins Tabu, hailed the rollout of the RTS, S malaria vaccine, saying there is adequate scientific evidence to prove it will be a game changer in the war against the tropical disease.
"We have the local data that proves this vaccine can significantly lower the risk of deadly malaria in young children, and now we have to see how best to provide it routinely to realize its potential," Tabu said.
Meanwhile, Kenya is grappling with a new malaria outbreak that has claimed close to 30 people in the northern semi-arid counties of Baringo and Marsabit.
The head of Kenya National Malaria Control Program, Waqo Erjesa, said the government has supplied drugs, mosquito nets and diagnostic kits to regions affected by the new outbreak. Enditem