MALARIA AND IMMUNIZATION HEROES
By: Chioma Ifebuzor
Malaria presents a persistent global burden, with Africa bearing about 90% of that burden. A child dies every two minutes and more than 200 million cases are recorded annually. This picture is even more disheartening, knowing that malaria is preventable and treatable. Malaria cases remain on the rise in some countries, despite coordinated global efforts to eradicate malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have drastically reduced the incidence of malaria in some parts of Africa, this reduction though laudable is slow towards achieving the 2020 targets of WHO’s Global Technical Strategy for malaria 2016-2030. Since the 1950s, The WHO declared 38 countries and overseas territories, malaria-free. The mortality rate of malaria has dropped by more than a half since the year 2000. According to last year’s World Malaria Report, approximately 400,000 people died from malaria, the lowest level ever in almost 20 years. With such notable progress, one would wonder if the end is in sight. Can malaria be eradicated? Will malaria be eradicated?
No single approach will rid us off malaria. It requires a multifaceted approach, like never before.
Lancet Medical Journal cites greater financial outlay, strengthening of malaria programs, global leadership and acceleration of research and development as the necessary measures to eradicate malaria. The Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme) after a 3-year study reaffirmed the possibility of malaria eradication in years to come, however, the current measures and strategies — use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying with insecticides, preventive treatment for infants and pregnant women, prompt diagnostic testing and treatment of confirmed cases with effective antimalarial medicines— if not revised and improved upon will hinder the achievement of this goal.
With severe resistance of the Plasmodium parasites to Artemisinin-Combination Therapies (ACTs) recorded in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar, ACTs may not be the salvation we hoped for. The RTS,S (Mosquirix), the first and only vaccine targeting Plasmodium falciparum, is perhaps the answer to malaria eradication. The vaccine, in conjunction with other proven measures and strategies for prevention, will assist in malaria eradication, saving thousands of lives in Africa and millions of dollars used in malaria preventive measures. The introduction of this vaccine is indeed a huge leap from the past and hope for a malaria-free future.
With more than thirty years in development by GlaxoSmithKlein, the non-profit organization PATH, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a network of African research centers, alongside over $1 billion in investment, the RST,S is now being deployed in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi as part of children’s routine immunization schedules. The vaccine, based on Phase 3 trial, is expected to result in a 39% prevention of malaria in children between 5–17 months as well as a 31.5% prevention of severe malaria, with significant reductions also seen in overall hospital admissions as well as in admissions due to malaria or severe anaemia.
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers and community volunteers are at the frontline to ensure public health safety as well as the efficacy of the malaria vaccine through the vaccine pilot implementation before wide-scale distribution. They are malaria immunization hereos. In the vaccine pilot implementation process, a total of Two Hundred and Seventy-Five Thousand Children (275,000) have received their first dose of the RTS,S in African countries such as Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya.
As the world battles COVID-19, there is a need to strengthen our healthcare system and ensure continuous interventions in malaria prevention and control despite the ongoing fight against COVID-19. As Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, Chief Executive Officer of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, said, we could see an exponential rise in malaria cases this year if funds are diverted or interventions are placed on hold. The RBM (Roll Back Malaria) Partnership to End Malaria is engaging in concerted efforts alongside regional and global partners, including World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The theme of this year’s World Malaria Day, 'Zero Malaria Starts with Me' reaffirms the indispensable role of everyone in malaria prevention, control and eradication, and ultimately, the attainment of universal healthcare coverage (UHC). It indeed is everyone’s responsibility – no matter where they live – to ensure no one dies from a mosquito bite, protect their communities from malaria parasites and of course, hold their governments accountable to end malaria.
Today, April 25, 2020, is World Malaria Day. As part of global efforts to eradicate malaria, the Young Pharmacists Group, Lagos State, Nigeria shall hold a virtual conversation on The Roles of Pharmacists in Immunization. This shall be facilitated by Pharm. funmbi okoya. He is the Public Relations Officer of FIP YPG . The conversation will hold today by 3:00 pm (GMT+1) via Instagram Live (@psnypg_lagos). Do well to be a part of the conversation.
You can also join the campaign by doing this:
- Step 1: Use the link
to create a personal DP and share on:
a) Twitter using the hashtag #endmalaria and tagging @psnypg_lagos
b) Instagram using the hashtag #endmalaria and tagging @psnypg_lagos
c) Whatsapp status using the hashtag #endmalaria and tagging @psnypg_lagos
- Step 2: Introduce yourself
- Step 3: Mention how you fight malaria
I am Oluwaseun Fasina, a pharmacist. I fight malaria by doing a test prior to treatment. I also fight malaria by using my complete dose of ACT, thereby #endmalaria. #ZeroMalariaStartsWithMe.
I am Pharm. Ulimmachukwu Osele. I fight malaria by carrying out rapid diagnostic tests for my patients, to facilitate early treatment. What do you do to fight malaria? #ZeroMalariaStartsWithMe #EndMalaria
With the rainy season coming soon and mosquitos becoming increasingly numerous and bothersome, your mind can be at rest knowing that there is no evidence of COVID-19 infection from a mosquito bite. The pandemic has stretched the healthcare industry beyond its capacity, directing all financial and human resources towards mitigating coronavirus disease. Regardless of the negative impact of the virus on health systems, essential services such as: immunization campaigns & administration which are a part of our collective efforts to ensure UHC should not be neglected. This is an appeal for the world to get back on track to meet the global goals of eradicating malaria and other vaccines-preventable diseases. We all have a role to play. It starts with you and me.
Remember to stay safe and maintain personal and communal hygiene.
Pharm. Chioma Ifebuzor is a member of the Public Health committee of the Young Pharmacists Group, Lagos State, Nigeria. She is a community pharmacist and a global health advocate. She is passionate about volunteering in vulnerable communities.