Burundi is expected to roll out its first malaria vaccination programme in July after it receives half a million doses, the USAid malaria advisor Dr Louise Mahan said Thursday.
The announcement was made during a visit by the United States Global Malaria Coordinator Dr David Walton in Burundi, one of the countries in the US President's Malaria Initiative (PMI).
“The Ministry of Health and the Malaria Strategic Plan are planning to initiate the vaccination in July this year…we now have a new partnership with Burundi between the National Malaria Strategic Plan and the vaccine programme which will allow us together to effectively distribute the vaccine,” said Dr Walton.
According to the 2023 World Malaria Report, Burundi was among the three countries worldwide that experienced a significant increase in malaria incidence between 2015 and 2022, with a rise of up to 31 percent.
Malaria had an incidence rate of 537 per 1,000 people in Burundi last year, according to the World Health Organisation.
Since 2010, the US through USAid has invested $127 million in malaria control in Burundi, focusing on vector control, prevention, case management, social behavior change, and commodity procurement.
“With Burundi's designation as a PMI partner country, interventions against malaria will significantly expand, with the budget increasing from $8 million to $15 million annually,” Dr Walton said.
USAid's Dr Mahan said the lack of data on malaria cases in the country was inhibiting the fight against the disease.
“We have some challenges in regards to control malaria in Burundi...if we don’t have data...we can’t know if there is increase or decrease in cases, so we need studies and surveys so we can make informed decisions and that’s what we are currently working on,” she said.
The 500,000 malaria doses will be used to vaccinate 250,000 children across 25 districts, Dr Mahan said.
According to WHO, children under five years old account for more than 80 percent of malaria deaths in Africa.
Following a pilot phase in 2019, the malaria RTS,S vaccine has been rolled out at scale across Africa, starting in Cameroon last month.
The Mosquirix (RTS,S) vaccine, developed by British pharmaceutical giant GSK, was administered to at least two million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi as part of a pilot programme.
In addition to Cameroon and Burundi, seven other countries are set to benefit from the jab supplies. They are Benin, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone and Uganda.