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No decision yet on importing malaria vaccine

  • Mohammad Al Amin
  • 23 October, 2021 12:00 AM
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The government will decide on the import of the Malaria vaccine based on recommendations from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).

“We have not taken any decision yet in this regard,” Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, Additional Director General (Planning and Development) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on October 6 endorsed the malaria vaccine for the first time. The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa.

“The WHO is recommending widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission. The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019,” it said in a statement.

The WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control, the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO.

RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.

Dr. Md. Nazmul Islam, Director (Disease Control) of the DGHS said “We will take decision on bringing the malaria vaccine as per recommendation of the NITAG. Now we are reviewing the information on the malaria vaccine recently approved by the WHO.”

Dr ASM Alamgir, Principal Scientific Officer of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for the world. “It can play an effective role in control and elimination of malaria in Bangladesh as malaria still exists in some areas of the country.”

Dr Ekramul Haque, Deputy Program Manager (Malaria & Aedes Transmitted Disease) of DGHS, said “though the malaria disease is very close to elimination in our country, a vaccine can reduce fatality. If the NITAG recommends the vaccine for use then we will work to bring it to our country.”

According to European Medicines Agency (EMA), Mosquirix is a vaccine that is given to children aged 6 weeks to 17 months to help protect against malaria caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The vaccine should only be used in areas of the world where malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum is prevalent, and according to official recommendations in those areas. Mosquirix also helps protect against infection of the liver with the hepatitis B virus but should not be used only for this purpose.

Mosquirix is given as a 0.5 ml injection into a muscle of the thigh or in the muscle around the shoulder (the deltoid). The child is given three injections with one month between each injection. A fourth injection is recommended 18 months after the third, it added.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the active substance in Mosquirix is made up of proteins found on the surface of the Plasmodium falciparum parasites and the hepatitis B virus.

Mosquirix induces antibodies against malaria parasites that have entered the blood (via a mosquito bite) and have reached or are travelling to the liver, where they can mature and multiply. The vaccine thus limits the ability of the parasites to mature in the liver and cause clinical disease, it added.

According to the DGHS, three out of five malaria-endemic districts from the Chattogram division (Chattogram, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar) reported a higher number of cases during this period compared to the same period of last year. Bandarban is the most endemic area.

Out of 64 districts, malaria is endemic in 72 upazilas of 13 districts with variable transmission potentials. The 13 districts are Kurigram, Sherpur, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Khagrachhari, Rangamati, Chattogram, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar, it said.

The DGHS said 5,867 malaria cases have been detected and seven patients died in the country from January to September this year. Some 153 cases were detected in January, 99 in February, 86 in March, 94 in April, 323 in May, 1455 in June, 1825 in July, 1164 in August and 668 in September this year.

Bangladesh implemented its National Strategic Plan 2017-2021 to ensure it is free from malaria by 2030. Now, another National Strategic Plan 2021-2025 has been taken to achieve the goal of eliminating malaria from the country, a DGHS official said.

According to the government’s plan, four districts will be free of malaria by 2021, 51 others in 2023, four districts of Sylhet division, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar will be malaria-free by 2025, and the disease will be eliminated from the three hill tract districts by 2030.