Given the speed and global cooperation that urgently produced vaccines of reasonable efficacy to help combat the COVID-19 virus, one cannot help but see through the hypocrisy of the global pharmaceutical companies in decades of dragging their feet, towards the production of an anti-malarial vaccine. It is pure selfishness to not have made common, the availability of malarial vaccines, yet the tropical countries (particularly African countries) have served and are still serving to grow the enormous wealth of the global community.
LONDON – Henrietta Holsman Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF in a recent call for global cooperation said that “global communities should get behind India” as the country battles with a more virulent type – three mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2. Her reasoning and recognition of the efforts and contributions of India towards global vaccine production and supply are justified.
Unlike the speed and corporation calls made available for COVID-19 vaccine production, no voice has, over the years, called for serious focus towards the production of anti-malarial vaccines to help Africa, as well other tropical climates where malarial is rife. Even in any degree, there is no appreciation of Africa’s efforts in the developed world, e.g., in the yielding of an enormous workforce which is termed as ‘slave trade’, and years of steady supply of raw materials and minerals for many finished products in the developed countries till date.
I pray that the voice of Henrietta Fore, gets even louder for Africa and Africans too and may our contributions not be relegated to irrelevance.
What is Malarial Fever?
Malaria or Malarial fever is a mosquito-borne infectious disease which affects humans and other animals. It is caused by infestation by single-celled micro-organisms of the Plasmodium group. With mosquito bites of an infected Anopheles (female) mosquito, there is the transmission of the Plasmodium which enters the blood stream of human beings or other animals. It passes through vital organs like the liver, where they mature, reproduce and multiply, pouring into the blood circulation. After 10-15 days, it causes symptoms such as:
- Fever, usually cyclical in nature
- Loss of appetite
- Yellow skin (or jaundice)
Complications of cerebral malaria (with the Plasmodium parasite in the brain) will result in seizure, coma, or death as in many cases. The frequency of malarial fever recorded in 2018 is 228 million, with 405,000 deaths according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Let us recall that Africa was colonised at the Berlin Conference of 1885. For the past 136 years, Africa and her resources have been supporting the economic growth and diversities of the developed nations, and rather than appreciate the continent and her people, or extend reasonable help towards eradication of such killer diseases like malaria, they turn blind eyes to the needs of the continent.
If, by the statistics of 2018 above, one takes a yearly average calculation, it stands to say that malarial fever, for the past 136 years, has killed millions of people, more than the COVID-19 pandemic has done. Yet under nine months, a vaccine has been produced to help contain the COVID-19 disease.
Malarial Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP)
It was only in May 2019 that the WHO launched a ‘new’ Malarial vaccine implementation programme, with pilot studies in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. So far, only 650,000 children have been vaccinated as compared with the speed of international rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccines in the developed nations (e.g., UK, USA, Russia).
Malaria continues to contribute to significant maternal and infant mortality rates (MMR and IMR). If the global community is truly serious about achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-3) to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages in Nigeria and other African countries, focused attention and speed needs to be directed at distributing these malarial vaccines widely. Good health, resulting from a malaria-free environment is one of such goals.
I dream of a beautiful world where the lives of all humans are weighed on a balanced and equal scale for good health, justice, and equity. Equitable distribution of vaccines, and all tools necessary to achieve a sustainably developed global community are needed. For it is only when we can achieve this, that we can truly enjoy the benefits of globalisation, where one community is not left only to survive for the thriving of others.
Africa needs the malaria vaccines urgently, and for it to be widely distributed too. As the mRNA vaccines are being distributed, the malarial vaccines should also be rolled out pari passu. As by the measure of Henrietta Fore, Africans, indeed, should be better appreciated with the backing of the nations of the world, to help eradicate malaria with aggressive distribution of the new malarial vaccines.
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