AFRICA –Nine months after the world’s first malaria vaccine was recommended for use, international vaccine alliance Gavi has invited countries to apply for financial support to roll out the jab, particularly targeting young children in Africa.

Its maiden application window to support roll-out for first malaria therapy geared at protecting children against the disease that kills more than 260 000 children yearly in Africa.

The World Health Organization endorsed GSK Plc’s four-dose Mosquirix shot in October last year, saying it could save thousands of lives.

Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – African nations that have been involved in pilot programs using the vaccine – can apply first, by September, to broaden their use of the shot.

The opening follows World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation for wider routine use of the RTS, S/AS01 (Mosquirix) malaria vaccine in October 2021 and a subsequent decision by Gavi board in December 2021 to approve an initial investment of US$ 155.7 million for 2022 to 2025 period.

However, Gavi said in a statement that other countries could submit expressions of interest for the second window.

A US$56 million investment through a ‘de-risk’ agreement with manufacturer GSK and innovative financing partner, MedAccess, supporting malaria vaccination is in place.

Now Gavi, which is financially prepared for the initial roll-out of the vaccine, has invited countries to apply for funding and support to distribute the shot.

Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – African nations that have been involved in pilot programs using the vaccine – can apply first, by September, to broaden their use of the shot.

The document reads in part: “In recognition of the technical requirements of rollout and the need to provide tailored support to countries, a first application window, which closes September 13, will be limited to the three countries that have taken part in the vaccine’s multi-year pilot program: 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 that already submit expressions of interest (EoIs) during the first funding window could signal interest and be provided with needed support to submit quality applications.”

Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi said: “The work towards a malaria vaccine has been long and hard,” said. Alongside the existing interventions like bed nets.”

Berkley expressed hopes that the new tool would now allow the organization to save more lives in countries hit hardest by this killer disease.

It is a step forward for the vaccine, which has taken decades to develop. Malaria, on average, kills a child every minute.

However, the roll-out is expected to start slowly, with supply falling far below the vast demand for several years, as Reuters reports citing the news agency’s recent investigation.

Gavi’s application guidelines are based on targeted support that would grow as volumes of available doses increase through an expected ramp-up in production.

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.

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