Africa will start talks with the World Health Organization (WHO) about getting the first approved malaria vaccine to the continent as soon as possible, the African Union’s top health official said on Thursday, amid calls for funding for drugs beyond COVID-19.
“We will be engaging with GAVI (the vaccine alliance) and WHO in the coming days to understand first of all the availability of this vaccine,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told an online news conference.
Nkengasong spoke a day after the WHO said RTS,S – or Mosquirix – developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L should be widely given to children in Africa.
Experts said the recommendation was potentially a major advance against a disease that kills a quarter of a million African children each year.
Calling malaria a major killer in Africa, Nkengasong urged donors not to play a zero-sum game “where we fund COVID vaccines and neglect malaria vaccines”.
A Reuters report said that Nkengasong said it was unclear when the vaccine will be accessible to the many African countries where malaria is endemic because the cost per dose is not known and it is not clear how quickly production can be scaled up.
GSK has to date committed to produce 15 million doses of Mosquirix annually up to 2028 at a cost of production plus no more than five percent margin.
A global market study led by the WHO this year projected demand for a malaria vaccine would be 50 to 110 million doses per year by 2030 if it is deployed in areas with moderate to high transmission of the disease.