Three African countries – Kenya, Ghana and Malawi – have been shortlisted for the field trials of the malaria vaccine, RTS,S.
In what stakeholders may describe as an unfortunate turn of events, Nigeria, a country that is the most affected by the disease, did not make the list.
The World Health Organisation, in a statement on Monday, said the countries that were chosen had met the three scientific criteria needed to make the first field trial of the RTS,S vaccine possible.
According to the global health agency, Kenya, Ghana and Malawi has the best uptake of Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets, well-functioning immunisation coverage and a high burden of the disease.
It stated, “Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots. High malaria burden areas will be prioritised, as this is where the benefit of the vaccine is predicted to be highest. Information garnered from the pilot will help to inform later decisions about potential wider use of the vaccine.
“The three countries were selected based on their high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal-treated nets; well-functioning malaria and immunisation programmes, a high malaria burden even after scale-up of LLINs, and participation in the Phase III RTS, S malaria vaccine trial.”
This is not the first time that Nigeria will be excluded from the trials leading to the development of the vaccine.
The country was not part of those that partook in the Phase 3 efficacy and safety trial of RTS,S that involved 15,459 infants and young children at 11 sites in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania conducted between 2009 and 2014.
As the WHO’s highlighted, Nigeria did not make the cut as the country has one of the lowest vaccination coverage rates compared to those selected for the clinical and field trials.
The coverage rates of some vaccines for Ghana are as high as 99.5 per cent while it is as low as 23 per cent in theNorth-East region in Nigeria.