BENIN— The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Niger to learn from the malaria vaccination experiences of Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

This advice comes as these countries prepare for the introduction and rollout of malaria vaccines, a key initiative under the Accelerating Malaria Vaccine Introduction and Rollout in Africa (AMVIRA) project which was established In January 2024 by the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

These recommendations were made during a stakeholders’ meeting organized by WHO, with funding from PATH and other partners.

The meeting aimed to review the progress of malaria vaccination and ensure adequate preparation for the introduction and rollout of the vaccines in additional African countries.

The meeting emphasized intercountry peer learning to build capacities for using the RTS,S and R21 vaccines and their monitoring tools.

 This approach is designed to enhance readiness for successful vaccine rollouts, reflecting the high interest and preparation for introducing these vaccines in about 20 more African countries.

AMVIRA’s initiative aims to strengthen technical support for Member States in their efforts to introduce and roll out malaria vaccines while improving coordination among partners at national, regional, and global levels.

Currently, countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have integrated the malaria vaccine into routine immunization.

Since 2019, Ghana, Malawi, and Kenya have been part of a pilot program that has reached 2.5 million children by December 2023.

Participants expressed sincere appreciation for the workshop, highlighting the significance and knowledge gained, which will help shape their strategies for effective malaria vaccine rollout

WHO and partners also addressed information gaps and shared lessons and best practices to ensure successful scale-up of vaccine introduction and rollout in these countries.

In addition to facilitating cross-learning, WHO through AMVIRA has deployed experts in immunization, data management, risk communication, and external communication to assist five countries in efficiently planning and delivering the vaccines.

 During the meeting, Dr. Konan Kouame Jean, WHO Representative for Benin, highlighted the importance of these vaccines in reducing malaria among young children, calling them a vital new tool in the fight against malaria.

On his part, Mr. John Bawa, Director of Malaria Vaccines Implementation at PATH, reaffirmed PATH’s commitment to health equity and the importance of the inter-country learning platform in creating a network of experts to accelerate malaria vaccinations.

In his address, Jean Crispin Mukendi, Deputy Manager for the Expanded Program on Immunization in the DRC, shared lessons learned from Benin, including the effective use of risk communication and consistent information sharing throughout the rollout.

He also noted the successful use of data management and monitoring tools observed in Ghana and Sierra Leone to expedite vaccine rollout.

Dr. Joseph Biey, Country Support and Operation Pillar Lead for AMVIRA, emphasized that with more investment, it is possible to beat malaria in Africa.

Africa continues to bear 94% of the global malaria burden. WHO, along with partners like UNICEF and Gavi, is intensifying malaria control efforts, with vaccines being the latest addition to the control toolbox.

At the end of the meeting, workshop participants gained insights into vaccine introduction, data management digitalization, vaccine risk communication, readiness monitoring, and supervision.

They were also able to make a field visit to malaria vaccination centres in Benin provided firsthand experience of the vaccination process.

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