By Abujah Racheal, Abuja.
The Federal Government says the first malaria vaccine, recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be administered in four doses to five-month-old babies.
WHO also said the vaccine would be effective against the deadliest parasite, especially common in Africa, but it is not for adults.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, made the clarifications on Tuesday in Abuja at the Ministerial bi-weekly meeting on the update of COVID-19 response and developments in the country’s health sector.
Recall that the 2021 World Malaria Report (WMR 2021) indicated that Nigeria contributed 27 per cent of the global malaria cases and 32 per cent of global malaria deaths.
The minister said that the country witnessed a total of 57 million clinical cases per year and annual deaths of about 100,000.
“It is also estimated that about 60 per cent of all out-patients and 30 per cent of all hospital admissions across the country are due to malaria”, he said.
Ehanire said that vaccines for malaria were still under review, with the first one known to have reduced the risk of malaria by 40 per cent in children in Africa as of 2020.
“The global target of the WHO is to reduce the incidence of malaria by at least 30 per cent by 2030,” he said.
The minister said that malaria remained one of the most common diseases prone to misdiagnosis and self-medication.
“In Nigeria especially, any symptoms of chills, body pain and headache often lead to the purchase of anti-malarial drugs; sometimes coupled with typhoid drugs; from the nearest pharmacy.
“Although effective in some cases, this ideology can be detrimental to our health, due to complications and increasing resistance to some anti-malarial drugs,” he said.
Ehanire, however, said that efforts were in place to combat the malaria scourge.
“Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Nigeria End Malaria Council (NEMC) and mandated it to ensure successful implementation of the programme.
“The right implementation of strategies, utilising collaboration and interventions, would be based on the resolve of the administration to ensure the protection of the health of Nigerians and in the spirit of one health,” he said.
The minister said that the Federal Ministry of Health placed high priority on interventions that would limit vector-human contact, towards protecting people from diseases.
“There are more than 30 anopheles species of mosquitoes that have been reported across the five geo-ecological zones in the country.
“One reason why the mosquito has thrived across all parts of the country is its ability to breed and proliferate under unusual conditions.
“The importance of this critical vector and the diseases it transmits informed the establishment of the Integrated Vector Management Branch within the National Malaria Elimination Programme.
“The essence of the programme is to coordinate all efforts to mitigate the impact of the diseases,” he said.
Ehanire said that the objective of the National Malaria Strategic Plan was to seek improved access and utilisation of vector-control interventions to cover at least 80 per cent of the targeted population by 2025.
“Some of the vector interventions being deployed include mass distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) on the principle,” he said.
The minister said that the NMEP, in collaboration with partners, had established 29 entomological surveillance sentinel sites across the country.
He said that the purpose of the establishment was to monitor vector behaviour and insecticide resistance patterns across the different ecological zones of the country.
Ehanire said that the country had been profiled for critical locations where Indoor Residual Spraying was urgently required in about 25 states.
According to the 2010 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey (NMIS 2010), there has been a continuous decline in malaria infections from 42 per cent in 2010 to 27 per cent in 2015.
In the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS 2018), there was a further decline in malaria cases from 27 per cent to 23 per cent.
This decline was believed to have resulted from a thorough implementation of the National Malaria Strategic Plan.
Nigeria is currently implementing the National Malaria Strategic Plan of 2021 to 2025, with the intent to achieve a parasite prevalence of less than 10 per cent.
It is also expected to reduce mortality attributable to malaria to less than 50 deaths per 1,000 live births by the year 2025.
It will take about N1.89 trillion to implement this five-year plan.