Some health experts and medical personnel in six states of the Northwest geopolitical zone have subscribed to the use of the malaria vaccine recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Reacting to the endorsement of the vaccine by WHO during separate interviews with correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Kano states, the experts expressed confidence in the findings of the international health body.
Few of them, however, suggested a verification test locally, before being administered, and a strict supervision afterwards, to detect any unanticipated adverse reaction.
NAN recalls that WHO had recommended the use of the malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) on children in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in other regions, based on results from a pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) is a vaccine that acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa.
The vaccine has been evaluated for use as a complementary malaria control tool that could be added to the core package of WHO-recommended preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures.
In Kaduna state, Dr abass Ajayi, Secretary of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) in the state, described the endorsement of the vaccine as a positive step that would help in rolling back malaria disease in Sub-Saharan countries.
He said the disease had maintained its ‘killer’ status in Africa for long, and needed to be checked through a vaccine that had an unquestionable efficacy.
According to him, the new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, raises a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens, and the most prevalent in Africa.
” It is a welcome idea and we have been waiting for it to happen; vaccines are good, effective and safe.
“ I know that people will be suspicious, and will start asking why should it be used in Sub-Saharan Africa, and why children etc.
“I want to advise that it should be accepted generally because it is a good idea, and will reduce the number of malaria-related deaths,” he admonished.
Ajayi explained that the current fight against the disease being waged on a variety of fronts, would receive a boost with the introduction of the vaccine.
In Katsina State, Dr. Shehu Muhammad, Chief Medical Officer of Comprehensive Health Care (PHC), Kofar Kaura in Katsina metropolis, said there was need for laboratory investigation in Nigeria before commencing the use of the vaccine in the country.
He said the fact that the vaccine had been proved to be effective in treatment of malaria on children in African countries like Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, should not be a yardstick for the usage of same on Nigerian children.
“I think we should make thorough investigations on safety and efficacy of the vaccine before we administer it on our children.
‘If this is done, we will now have the confidence that no risk is being taken before we allow it to be used on our children,” he advised.
Dr. Fatima Abdullahi, a Medical Officer at the General Hospital, Katsina, said that since the WHO had proved that the vaccine was safe for treatment of malaria in Sub- Africa, including Nigeria, there should be no room for doubt.
“The WHO is the highest Global Health Organization that can determine anything that has to do with health issues.
“Since it said the RTSS is safe and good for treatment of malaria on children in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is no reason to be skeptical.
“The global body must have conducted its clinical investigations thoroughly before approving the vaccine”, she said.
On his part,Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, Dr Ali Inname, said the endorsement of the vaccine by the global body was a welcome development, as it could reduce expenditure incurred on malaria treatment activities in Africa.
He suggested that government at all levels should commence the mobilisation of Nigerians to ensure public acceptance of the vaccine.
Also reacting to the development, Chairman of Association of Local Government Chairmen of Nigeria (ALGON), Sokoto state chapter, Alhaji Mustapha Shehu, urged the use of the vaccine in Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) in the state.
Speaking along the same line, Malam Rabi’u Gandi, Coordinator of Safe The Children Initiative (STCI) in Sokoto state, described the breakthrough as heartwarming, and therefore enjoined stakeholders to ensure maximum usage.
He however suggested close monitoring of its use to address any unforeseen case of vaccine reaction on children.
In Kano state, Chairman of Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, Kano chapter, Mr Sani Ali, said that the recommendation was timely, after prolonged research.
“People have been agitating for the vaccine for a long time, especially in vulnerable countries where malaria cases are high,” he said.
He expressed optimism that the vaccine would reduce infant and child deaths resulting from malaria, adding that WHO must have been thorough in its research before recommending it.
In his contribution, a Public Health Practitioner in Kano, Dr Musa Abdullahi-sufi, said the endorsement of the vaccine, was long over due.
He described it as a breakthrough that African countries and health experts across the globe, had been anxiously waiting for.
“Its an opportunity to prevent children from suffering and dying from malaria in all countries.”
“We believe it (vaccine) has gone through series of research as with other vaccines, and so its quiet safe for administration,” he added.
Abdullahi-Sufi advocated for massive enlightenment at the grassroots to avert resistance by local people, as was the experience with some vaccines in the past.
Also in Zamfara, a public health expert, Nura Musa, said it was a welcome development, saying the negative effects of malaria disease on children and pregnant mothers, had been a source of concern.
Musa, who is a Senior Lecturer, Zamfara State College of Health Technology and Sciences, Tsafe, was hopeful that the emergence of the vaccine would change the situation for better.
He advised that administration of the vaccine be closely monitored to ensure that it did not have long term adverse effects on the health status of recipients.
In his reaction to the WHO recommendation, Dr Shafi’i Garba of the Department of Paediatrics, Federal Medical Centre, Gusau, said it would be a milestone achievement if the vaccine became effective.
According to him, malaria was the major cause of high mortality rate in children of less than five years, globally, and also a burden in developing countries, especially Africa.
In Kebbi State, health experts said the new vaccine would usher in a new dimension in the fight against the dreaded malaria disease.
Yusuf Umar-Sawwa, Health Education and Promotion Officer, Kebbi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, said malaria had been an endemic disease in Nigeria for quite some time, defying different medications.
He said producing a vaccine for malaria was a thing of joy, adding that the WHO would not make the costly mistake of allowing vaccine to be administered on children without thorough research.
According to him, this innovative development will go a long way in tackling malaria in Nigeria, especially with the low socio-economic status of Nigerians.
On his part, Dr Akeem Akinbode of the Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kebbi,
who is also a Senior Registrar in Family Medicine and a Public Health Expert, said for WHO to have approved the vaccine, it must have undergone thorough scrutiny.
“It means that a team of experts have sat down to look at the trials that have been done, and the pilot tests that have been carried out across the world, especially in Africa, then came to a conclusion that the vaccine is efficacious.
“For now, since it has been recommended by WHO, people in Sub-Saharan Africa need to be encouraged to accept it,” he added.(NAN)