Saturday , August 13 2022

Kenyan doctor at North Malaria Vaccine Center



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A top Kenyan scientist who has participated in innovative medical research is confident in a malaria-free future after the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the first vaccine for children.

Approval is based on results from an ongoing pilot program in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. Key findings of the pilots informed the recommendation based on data and knowledge generated from two years of vaccination in child health clinics in the three pilot countries.

Dr. Walter Otieno participated in the vaccine pilot study as the lead investigator in Kisumu and hopes that nursing mothers will use the vaccine.

Malaria kills one child every two minutes and more than 260,000 African children under the age of five each year.

An excellent pediatrician, Dr. Otieno’s love for children is his greatest motivation whenever it comes to working. His joy is to see healthy children and happy nursing mothers.

In 2010, he was among medical experts who took part in a four-month trial before the malaria vaccine. In 2016, he was invited to work as the lead investigator of the pilot study of the vaccine in Kombewa.

At that time, he headed the pediatrics department at the School of Medicine, Maseno University. “I was lucky to be selected because I had the right qualifications and I was in the right place at the right time,” he says.

He has worked with 280 medical experts, including consultants, nutritionists, laboratory technicians, clinicians and nurses. “We also had pharmacists, doctors and research coordinators,” he offers.

The study took five years and saw a registration of 1,631 children in Kombewa aged between six weeks and 17 months. They came from the sub-counties of Muhoroni, Seme, Kisumu West, Kisumu East and Kisumu Central. Nyando and Nyakach acted as control areas.

The centers were chosen because they had high transmission rates. “We followed them the whole period from the trials. On average, we were working for 10 to 12 hours a day,” says Dr. Otieno.

“Our main goal was to find out if the vaccine was safe, effective and working with children. Knowing how it works, we wanted to establish whether it would reduce the cases of severe malaria transmissions and our focus was on anemia, “he offers.

In Kombewa, 62 per cent of admissions are due to malaria and reducing the numbers even by half would mean a big difference.

“In 2000, we lost about 200 anti-malaria patients in this area,” he says.

During the study, however, only 10 out of 1600 children died of natural causes. The malaria vaccine gives only about 50 percent protection against severe effects of the disease.

Other protective measures include the use of bed nets, proper sanitation, and a hospital visit in case of signs and symptoms. “What we want to do is embrace this new method; it’s proof that it’s done here and we’ve confirmed that it works,” he offers.

“We should work to get the vaccine to as many children as possible. Just like any other vaccine, the more people are vaccinated, the greater the protection. The side effects of the vaccine are almost similar to other vaccines. . “

Dr. Otieno hopes the vaccine will be embraced around the lake region, an endemic area of ​​malaria. “There is hardly anyone who has not suffered the severe manifestation of the disease,” he says.

The vaccine will help a lot to save costs at both the family, county and country level because of the hospitals.

Data from the pilot program showed that more than two-thirds of children in the three countries who are not sleeping under a mosquito net are benefiting from the jab.

More than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in all three countries. It resulted in a 30 percent reduction in hospitalization due to severe malaria and a 21 percent reduction in hospitalization with malaria infection.

“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, children’s health and malaria control,” says WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus . “Using this vaccine on existing malaria prevention tools can save tens of thousands of small lives each year.”

In recent years, the WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.

“For centuries, malaria has plagued sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering. We have been hoping for an effective vaccine against malaria and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use,” he offers. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.