Sentiments On The Malaria Vaccine in Sub-Saharan Africa

by | Nov 2, 2021

On October 6, 2021, the World Health Organization recommended using the recently approved malaria vaccine RTS, S for use among children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high levels of malaria transmission.

Premise ran a survey in eight countries: six of which account for about half of deaths caused by malaria globally (Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania) as well as two countries where trials for the vaccine were held (Ghana and Kenya).

We used a statistically significant sample of our network in these countries and surveyed 500 contributors from each country.

We began the survey with some introductory questions about whether or not the respondents have had malaria, how recent their last case of malaria was, and the preventative measures taken against it. 

 Have you ever had Malaria?

As can be expected, a majority of respondents in most of the countries surveyed have had malaria at some point in their lifetime. However, only 38% of respondents in the DRC claim to have had malaria while 35% say they are not sure. This is surprising as the DRC has the second highest number of malaria cases globally.

How high is the risk of contracting Malaria in your community?

The most common preventative measures our respondents take to protect themselves from malaria include using mosquito repellent creams, bed nets, puig screens on doors and windows, and wearing long-sleeved clothing and pants. 

What do you currently do to prevent yourself from getting malaria?

Here are some other key learnings:

  • More than half of users surveyed are aware that a malaria vaccine has been recommended by the WHO and believe in its effectiveness.
  • As can be expected, a majority of respondents in most of the countries surveyed have had malaria at some point in their lifetime.
  • Most respondents believe the vaccine will be effective but are still hesitant to trust the vaccine until they know more about it.
    • Despite the belief in the effectiveness of the malaria vaccine, about half of respondents would like to know more about the vaccine before fully trusting it for use on their children or the children of loved ones.
      • Many users (ranging from 37% in Niger to 50% in Mozambique say that they still need more information about the vaccine before fully trusting it.
      • However, many users in Niger (51%) and the DRC (47%) say they would not trust the vaccine at all.

Look title: How much would you trust the malaria vaccine?

When the users that do not trust the vaccine were asked why the most common reason chosen was that it may have a harmful or negative side effect on children.

There are also some comparisons to be made with the COVID-19 vaccine. We see a bit of a correlation between countries where respondents have been vaccinated against COVID and countries where they trust the malaria vaccine. As was seen earlier, many users in Niger (51%) and the DRC (47%) say that they do not trust the malaria vaccine at all. These two countries also have the lowest percentage of respondents who say both them and their loved ones have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Next steps for the WHO-recommended malaria vaccine will include funding decisions from the global health community for broader rollout, and country decision-making on whether to adopt the vaccine as part of national malaria control strategies. However, for a successful rollout, the citizens in this community need to trust the malaria vaccine. 

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