Kenya joins Malawi and Ghana to roll out the world’s first malaria vaccine

September 13, 2019 by PATH

Elian_RTTS vaccine launch_Kenya

Elian waits with his mother to receive the new malaria vaccine through the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme. Photo: PATH.

Media contact: Lindsay Bosslet | PATH |

Seattle, WA, September 13, 2019 – PATH congratulates Kenya as it joins Ghana and Malawi in providing the world’s first malaria vaccine to children through routine immunization. With the start of vaccination in Kenya, the World Health Organization (WHO)-coordinated Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) is now fully underway.

“In Africa, malaria still kills a child every two minutes,” said Ben Aliwa, Interim Country Director at PATH Kenya. “Here in Kenya, especially in the Western region, the disease is one of the top ten causes of illness and death and a leading killer of children under the age of five. This vaccine could help to save many young lives.”

Known as RTS,S (Mosquirix), it is the first and only vaccine to significantly reduce malaria in children and was shown to decrease the number of malaria cases by approximately 40 percent. The immunization program includes a phased introduction, which will make the vaccine available initially to children starting from six months of age in selected sub-counties with moderate to high malaria prevalence.

The RTS,S vaccine is designed to help prevent Plasmodium falciparum malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and to complement other malaria control interventions, such as bednets, drugs, and insecticides, as well as appropriate case management. According to WHO, there were 219 million malaria cases and 435,000 malaria deaths due to malaria in 2017 worldwide, with sub-Saharan Africa bearing the greatest burden.

In addition to the phased introduction, the immunization program includes an evaluation component. The phased introduction and evaluation will allow officials and their partners in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi to learn how best to deliver the required four doses of the vaccine in routine settings, to assess the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths, and establish the vaccine’s safety profile in the context of routine use. This information will help to inform decisions on the potential for broader use of the vaccine in other areas of Africa where malaria is a public health threat.

“There is broad consensus within the global health community that no single tool can defeat malaria by itself—it will take multiple interventions, working together,” said Dr. Debbie Atherly, Director of Policy, Access, and Introduction for PATH Vaccines. “In combination with currently available tools, this vaccine has the potential to substantially reduce sickness and death in communities where the disease remains devastating.”

PATH has worked in Kenya since 1992, building partnerships with leaders and communities to help address the country’s health needs and priorities. The organization’s work in Kenya includes health system and service innovations, as well as the development and introduction of health technologies, including vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, and devices. This long history and broad reach in Kenya allow PATH to identify, implement, and evaluate tools and approaches at scale.

“We are honored to work with the Ministry of Health, WHO, and other partners to support the phased introduction of this first malaria vaccine and evaluations on how to best use it in our country,” said Aliwa. “This is a historic moment and aligns with our mission to advance health equity through innovation and partnership.”

As a partner in the MVIP, PATH’s role is to lead a qualitative study on health care utilization to understand the reasons people use or do not use the vaccine, and to assess the economics of vaccine introduction to get a more complete sense of the cost of implementing the vaccine. PATH also provides project management and communications support to WHO and ministries of health in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi.

PATH began working on RTS,S in 2001, when the organization first partnered with developer and manufacturer, GSK, to help advance the vaccine through clinical development. The pivotal Phase 3 efficacy and safety trial of RTS,S was conducted by 11 research centers across seven African countries—including Kenya—and concluded in January 2014.

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