Malawi commemorates World Pneumonia Day, launches Pneumonia Vaccine
By Felix Malamula
Lilongwe, 12 November 2011: Malawi has joined 16 other members of the GAVI Alliance to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine to protect children against the leading cause of pneumonia. The disease is among the top killers of under-five children in Malawi, accounting for 1.1 million illnesses and 1,600 deaths in 2010 alone.
The colourful launch ceremony in Lilongwe was officiated by the Minister of Health Dr. Jean Kalilani.
Speaking on behalf of the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF Reputy Representative Jane Muita said the dual launch of the vaccine and the SADC Malaria Week signalled the intention of the government and its partners to vigorously address two of the largest causes of child morbidity and mortality in Malawi: pneumonia and malaria.
“These two diseases are a terrible scourge to children in Malawi and we need to tackle them with all the resolve and resources we can marshal,” she said.
Dr Muita also announced that the Board of GAVI had approved Malawi’s application for the introduction of the Rotavirus vaccine in 2013.
“We can only look forward to a similar function in the near future where we will be able to launch the Rotavirus vaccine in Malawi,” she said.
The introduction of the pneumonia vaccine comes as good news to 31 year old Janet Chisale. Her two month old son, Bright, was the first Malawian to receive the pneumonia vaccine.
“I am excited, very excited,” she said. “This means my child is immune to pneumonia.”
The pneumonia vaccine will be rolled out to all of Malawi’s 28 districts and health personnel have already been trained in the administration of the vaccine.
Salima district medical officer, Jamal Idruss says the district is ready to roll-out the vaccine to health facilities in the district.
“We will start immediately since all the supplies are already here.” The Malaria Week will also see the distribution of mosquito nets to children and pregnant women, according to Dr Kalilani.
“My ministry plans to distribute 5.4 million nets this season alone in order to reduce deaths caused by malaria, especially among under-five children and pregnant women.”
At the same time, the government intends to undertake indoor residual spraying in the high malaria transmission areas of Karonga, Mangochi, Salima, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Chikhwawa and Nsanje.
Pneumococcal vaccines introduced in Malawi [External link]