Following the surge in malaria cases in the country, the Ministry of Health has informed that the government will be rolling out a vaccine to combat the disease.
According to Dr. Jimmy Opigo the Manager of the Malaria Control Programme at the Ministry of Health, the severity of the disease is 56 percent, with more than half of the outdoor patients visiting hospitals with fevers ending up testing positive for malaria.
Additionally, he explained that whereas 10-15 percent of people receiving in-patient hospital care have malaria, the number of patients with the disease has increased to 20 -25 percent.
He attributed the rise to the new breed of mosquitoes called Anopheles stephensi which has changed feeding and survival skills.
“Even the ones that feed from inside have changed their resting behavior. They no longer rest on the walls because the walls are sprayed. They bite people from inside and return outside,” he warned.
He added that the mosquitoes resist pesticides, even when sprayed with the bitrate chemical in the sprays and the nets. This makes them live inside and rest on the mosquito nets without dying, reducing the effectiveness of the preventive measures.
“We are working on putting chemicals in the sprays and mosquito nets to overcome the situation,” said Mr. Opigo. He stated that the Eastern part of Uganda (Busoga, Bukedi), the Bunyoro region in Kakumiro, Karamoja, West Nile, and Lango regions are highly affected.
In areas like Karamoja, where people usually sleep outside to keep guard on their animals, the doctor said the government introduced seasonal chemoprevention.
“The government is providing them with medicines such as prophylaxis, a similar drug given to tourists to protect them from malaria even when bitten by infected mosquitoes, and spraying indoors for the areas in West Nile and Lango where malaria has always been prevalent,” Dr. Opigo reported.
The innovation of a malaria vaccine soon to be ruled out in Uganda in 2023 has proven effective in countries where it has been administered, such as Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana.
“The world has spent over 30 years developing a malaria vaccine because, unlike viruses and bacteria, malaria is caused by an organism with multiple cells. However, we have vaccines designed to prevent malaria, its severe forms, and malaria-related deaths to a small extent”.
He explained that because the manufacturer can only produce 20 million vaccines per year, their giveaway follows a strict criterion starting with the hardest malaria-hit countries in Africa based on malaria prevalence and the number of deaths registered among children under five years.
“In Uganda, we do not have high under-five deaths compared to some African countries. Therefore we only qualify for 900,000 vaccines which we will be getting in mid-2023. The disease is to be included in the list of immunizable diseases, making it the 13th,” he said.
Furthermore, he posited that infants are to receive the vaccine at 6, 7, and 8 months respectively, and a booster at 18 months, meaning it will be administered to children below 1 and 2 years.
According to statistics, 16 people in Uganda are dying from malaria each day, causing an economic loss of 658 million dollars, about 2.4 trillion shillings yearly, according to data from the World Health Organization.
The spread of malaria can be reduced through using repellants, sleeping in a treated mosquito net, spraying residences with pesticides, and seeking professional treatment in case of fever to reduce the chances of fatalities.
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