NAIROBI, March 6 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan Ministry of Health and partners will expand coverage of malaria vaccination targeting children in eight endemic counties adjacent to the Lake Victoria basin, senior officials said Monday.
An additional 25 sub-counties in the eight high-malaria burden counties in western Kenya will be roped in the new vaccination drive, which begins Tuesday, targeting children below two years amid their vulnerability to the mosquito-transmitted tropical disease, the officials disclosed.
Susan Nakhumicha Wafula, the cabinet secretary for Health, said an accelerated vaccination drive combined with the provision of insecticide-treated nets, indoor spraying, timely diagnosis, and treatment have been prioritized as the country embarks on the journey of attaining malaria-free status by 2030.
"We are thrilled to announce today that more children in Kenya will be able to benefit from the life-saving protection," Wafula told journalists in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Kenya commenced the phased introduction of the malaria vaccine called RTS, S in September 2019, with the Ministry of Health statistics indicating that nearly 400,000 children in the eight endemic counties have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Omar Ahmeddin, the head of the National Malaria Program at the Ministry of Health, said the national malaria prevalence in the country has dropped from 11 percent in 2010 to the current 6 percent, adding that vaccines are behind that feat.
Omar also said the government will enhance surveillance, diagnosis, treatment, and management at the endemic western and coastal regions to bring down malaria incidences and fatalities.
In addition, Kenya will prioritize collaborative research on therapeutics for treating malaria besides building the capacity of health workers in the high-burden counties, Omar added.
Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi were selected by an international consortium of donors, researchers, and industry for the phased introduction of the malaria vaccine in September 2019. So far, more than 1.2 million children in the three countries have received the jab.
Abdourahmane Diallo, the WHO representative in Kenya, said seamless vaccination against malaria will not only aid Kenya's quest to reduce infant mortalities but also lead to improved health and economic outcomes for communities in endemic regions. ■