Malaria vaccine trial boosts efforts on elimination
Notwithstanding the success recently recorded in the first malaria vaccine by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), experts have urged Nigerians not to relent in their concerted effort against eliminating the killer disease.
The experts who met at 2015 World Malaria Day Symposium, commemorated at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Lagos, said more was need to tackle malaria than vaccine.
According to them, Nigeria need to strengthen effort at addressing issues of fake anti-malaria drugs, fake insecticides and issues of misdiagnosis – all of which are poverty and ignorance-related problems bedeviling efforts to end malaria sicknesses and deaths in the country.
Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, Dr Jide Idris, in his keynote address, said outcome of the trial show that the technology might help reduce morbidity and mortality due to malaria, but it was important not to rest in homegrown efforts.
Idris said the vaccine progress buttresses the call on Nigeria to double investment in public health.
In his words: “It is imperative on us to invest heavily in our public health institutions and one of that is research. No country can made appreciable progress in public health with local research.
“It is there that anything discovered is modified, findings are made and that helps in the new quality of service, which is very essential,” he said.
It would be recalled that GSK some days ago announced that the world’s first malaria vaccine could be approved by international regulators for use in Africa from October this year.
The final trial data showed that the shoe, called RTS,S offered partial protection for children for up to four years.
It will be the first licensed human vaccine against a parasitic disease, and could help prevent millions of cases of malaria, which currently kills more than 600,000 people a year.
Idris said it was important to note that researches abroad are not funded by government but the private sector.
He said if the trial actually comes through, it would benefit Nigeria, with the greatest burden of mosquito concentration in the world.
“It is also a pointer for us that we must invest in research work. We have a lot of scientists in this country, whose works are not even known.
“If you recollect, during the Ebola, the laboratory we used was run by Nigerians. It is part of what helped us then. We have the potential and the people, all they need is the encouragement and the funding,” he said.
Professor of parasitology, University of Ibadan (UI), Olubunmi Otubanjo, noted that Nigeria has not make appreciable progress in malaria control.
Otubanjo, who chaired the symposium, said until there is a concerted effort to rid the country of fake antimalarial drugs and insecticides, couple with misdiagnosis of the disease, Nigerians may continue to writhe under the burden of the disease.
She said while infection and death rates in Africa have reduced by 34 and 54 per cent in that order, malaria continue to account 25 per cent infant deaths, 30 per cent of all under-five deaths and 11 per cent of maternal mortality in Nigeria, helped by ignorance and poverty.
The researcher said issue of malaria control and other public health related concerns must not be left out in the coming political dispensation.
NIMR Director General (DG) and chief host of the symposium, Prof. Innocent Ujah, said the research institute commemorated the April 25 World Malaria Day to reflect issues in combating the old scourge in the country.
Ujah said although the 2014 World malaria reports testifies to the fact that the malaria target under the Millennium Development Goals six (MDG-6) had been met with 55 countries on track to reduce the malaria burden by 75 per cent by the end of 2015, the situation in Nigeria remains complex and contradictory.