More than 330,000 doses of the Mosquirix malaria vaccine have been delivered to Cameroon as part of efforts to ramp up immunisation across Africa. Cameroon is the first African country to receive the vaccine after pilot programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
A batch of 331,200 doses of the vaccine – which is also known as RTS,S and is manufactured by British drugmaker GSK – was offloaded in the capital Yaounde this week.
The initial consignment of vaccines will go to 42 out of 203 health districts in the country, Cameroon's health minister Manaouda Malachie said.
"We lose many compatriots who die because of this disease. Today, we have a vaccine which comes to add to the panoply of measures already rolled out."
Inoculations will begin in December or early next year, according to health officials.
Malaria remains one of Africa's deadliest diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), killing nearly half a million children under the age of five.
Africa accounted for approximately 95 percent of global malaria cases and 96 percent of related deaths from the mosquito-borne disease in 2021.
The vaccine rollout is a "breakthrough moment for malaria vaccines and malaria control, and a ray of light in a dark time for so many vulnerable children in the world", said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
A further 1.7 million doses of the RTS,S vaccine are expected to arrive in Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone in coming weeks, the global vaccine alliance GAVI said in a joint statement with WHO and the UN children's fund, Unicef.
The trio said ehe delivery to Cameroon signalled that a scale-up of vaccination against malaria across the highest-risk areas on the African continent wouls soon begin.
Unicef representative Juliette Haenni said the vaccine marked an historic moment to protect children.
"Children are the most affected. The ones we are targeting are the six to 24 months old – the most vulnerable," Haenni said.
"This vaccine has the potential to save many lives and reduce the burden of this disease."
The WHO says a second malaria vaccine developed by Britain's University of Oxford, R21/Matrix-M, would become available by the middle of next year.