Malaria Vaccine Arrives!

October 2021 hit the ground running!

Tanzania’s Abdurazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize for Literature on 8 October 2021, only the second time an African has done so since Nigerian Professor Wole Soyinka won it in 1986. Incidentally, until his retirement recently, Mr Gurnah was a Professor in English and Postcolonial Literature at the University of Kent, Canterbury.

As I listened to him on BBC soon after the Nobel Foundation broke the news to him, he said he was “surprised and humbled.”

On 14 October 2021, the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) congratulated Mr Gurnah for the honour to African writers.

Malaria vaccine

Earlier on 6 October 2021, medical history was made with the announcement by the Director-General of WHO Dr Tedros Gebreyesus in Nairobi, Kenya that, the much-awaited vaccine for the world’s greatest killer, malaria, had finally been approved for a roll-out. This was after trials in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya since 2019 involving over 800,000 children.

Somehow, the reception to this news in Ghana appeared rather subdued despite Ghana’s contribution in the vaccine trials and the headlines this made on major news media like the BBC. It was received with similar marginal enthusiasm Ghana’s 3-1 victory over Zimbabwe was in the Football World Cup Qualifiers at the Robert Mensah Stadium, Cape Coast on Saturday 9 October 2021.

Interestingly, in the world heavyweight tournament over that weekend, some boxing fans kept vigil into the early hours of Sunday 10 October 2021 to watch Tyson Fury beat Deontay Wilder by an 11th round knockout.


Malaria kills one person every two minutes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, about 260,000 African children under five years die every year from malaria. This first roll-out vaccine produced by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has a 39% success rate against malaria, and 29% against severe malaria. Low as these figures may appear, they constitute a bold start in the long quest for a vaccine for malaria. Again, four doses are to be administered to children by age two. These “teething problems” notwithstanding, it is hoped that the second phase of the vaccine will have a higher success rate improving on the prototype.

While solace is taken from the saying “better late than never,” a question asked on BBC on 6 October 2021 was, why did it take thirty years to produce a vaccine for malaria when that for covid-19 could be done in one year? Much as I tried to understand the explanation given, I could not. However, I heard it said that the huge capital investment in the project was a factor that caused the delay.

Obviously, malaria is considered an African problem that mainly kills Africans. So, why should the 54 independent African countries on a continent where a head of state’s son’s wedding attracts over 100 private jets, expect others to philanthropically invest in saving the lives of African children when their leaders prioritise private jets over lives?

In July 2021, citing “poor internet connection” in his malaria-prone country as a reason, an African president flew with a ten-person entourage including his family to the UK for a two-day virtual conference. To say the organisers were amazed is an understatement! Africa! For that leader of a country with a 2020 per-capita income of around $US1,000 to fritter away money so casually, when such monies could help solve his internet problems, and contribute to malaria control, is unconscionable!

Professor Wangari Maathai

Kenyan Professor Wangari Maathai who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her Green Belt Movement’s extraordinary effort to plant over fifty-one million trees in Kenya, at risk to her life, said this in her book “The Challenge for Africa.”

“Poor leadership, bad governance, foreign exploitation of resources, climate change, unfair commodity pricing, brain drain” are the bane of Africa!

Apart from being ridiculous, it is immoral for African leaders to fly to lenders to ask for debt-forgiveness for loans misused. Sadly, they seem to think others should charitably finance their profligacy! Paradoxically, it is out of the resources that we sell cheaply to them in raw materials that they make the money we go borrowing.

The Pandora Papers have mentioned some corrupt African leaders hiding stolen monies in off-shore accounts. In the BBC comedy “The Resident Presidents” on Friday, 15 October 2021, the two actors “Presidents” Kibarkingmad and Olushambles teasingly said some African presidents not yet named are having sleepless nights, scared about Pandora Papers’ impending revelations!

While Ghana, Malawi and Kenya have been praised for providing human beings for the vaccine trials, in future we should go beyond that, to producing vaccines ourselves!

Leadership, lead with a conscience!

Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!

Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)

Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association

Nairobi, Kenya


Council Chairman

Family Health University College


[email protected]