Ensuring Universal Health Coverage, Strengthening Health Systems Vital To Improving Access To Malaria Vaccine

Project Syndicate: Making the Most of the Malaria Vaccine
Ifeanyi M. Nsofor, medical doctor, CEO of EpiAFRIC, director of policy and advocacy for Nigeria Health Watch, and 2019 Atlantic fellow for health equity at George Washington University

“A new malaria vaccine now being piloted in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of malaria cases occur, could be a game changer in global health. But, if the new vaccine is to fulfill its potential, health ministries will need to make some important changes. … One weakness lies in the storage and delivery of vaccines. … To fulfill the purpose of childhood vaccinations, the cold chains leading to children everywhere — including in remote areas — must be safeguarded and, where necessary, strengthened. … Yet another imperative for countries across Asia and Africa is to reduce their dependence on Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for funding vaccination programs. … Rather than continue to depend on external donors — and risk suffering the consequences of donor fatigue — countries need to take control of their vaccination programs. One way to do that is by introducing publicly funded universal health coverage. … [C]ountries should be working to … [ensure] health coverage — including financial-risk protection and access to essential health care services, medicines, and vaccines — for all. … Immunization is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions. The RTS,S [malaria] vaccine is no different, especially because it can be deployed through existing immunization programs. But delivering them remains a challenge in some areas. If leaders fail to meet that challenge, millions more children may not make it to their fifth birthdays” (7/11).