Arrival of First Malaria Vaccines in Benin Signals Milestone in Health Initiatives

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Benin marked a significant step in its healthcare efforts as it received its inaugural shipment of malaria vaccines. A total of 215,900 doses were welcomed at the Cotonou International Airport by the Minister of Health and representatives from UNICEF, WHO, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines. Benin, being a perennial malaria-endemic region, grapples with elevated mortality rates due to the disease, making this vaccine delivery a crucial development.

Malaria stands as the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5, constituting 40% of external consultations and 25% of hospital admissions in Benin, according to various studies and observations. The arrival of these vaccines aligns with the objective set by Benjamin Hounkpatin, the Minister of Health, who emphasizes, “Administering the anti-malarial vaccine will not only control the disease but, more importantly, save tens of thousands of lives each year.”

Combination Approach

The vaccination schedule involves four doses for children aged 6, 7, 9 months, and under 2 years, commencing in the first quarter of 2024. However, it is crucial to note that the RTS vaccine is not a panacea. Echoing the sentiments of the Minister of Health, Dr. Lise Hélène Adjahi, a general practitioner, advocates for combining the vaccine with other preventive measures: “We will continue to use it alongside other approaches, such as mosquito nets, prevention, and avoiding mosquito bites.”

Safety and Efficacy

Anticipating potential resistance akin to what was witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Health asserts that “vaccination remains one of the safest and most effective strategies.” Without explicitly naming anti-vaccine sentiments, Dr. Lise Hélène Adjahi issues a plea to skeptics, stating, “I recommend accepting this vaccine; I cannot believe it is an ineffective vaccine.” The malaria vaccine is now incorporated into Benin’s expanded vaccination program, marking a significant stride in the nation’s commitment to public health.

Soukaina Sghir

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