© © UNICEF/UNI479396/Sigu

When she heard from a health worker that the malaria vaccine would be available in January of this year, in the health centre where her last baby, Eyenga, was born, Marie, a 24-year-old mom, couldn’t wait.

Marie, carrying Eyenga, her 6-month-old daughter, was among the first parents to arrive at the Soa integrated health centre that January day. "My first child, who is now 5 years old, has had several bouts of malaria, and we've had to go back and forth between home and hospital for him to be treated, not to mention the financial burden incurred and the stress we went through. That's why this morning I wanted to be among the first, so that I do not miss the opportunity for my 6-month-old child to be vaccinated first", she said, smiling.

Just after Eyenga was vaccinated, Marie said she was relieved, and the smile on her face proved it. Now she wants to spread the message to her family and friends that this new vaccine is available and free of charge: "I know that other mothers will be informed by health workers in the community. I'd also like to do my bit to ensure that children are as well protected as possible against this disease, which causes a great deal of fear among parents and expense for families," she said with great emotion before heading home.

Eyenga was one of thousands of children in 42 districts of Cameroon who received the vaccine against malaria this morning. The vaccine is part of the routine vaccination. Each child will have to receive 4 doses from the time they’re 6 months until they reach their second birthday.

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Photo on the left: Marie holds up the vaccination card for six-month-old Eyenga, who received her first dose of the malaria vaccine. Photo on the right: Eyenga getting vaccinated at the Soa integrated health centre. [© UNICEF/Beguel ]

The vaccine has been certified by WHO after pilot deployment in some African countries. Cameroon is the first African country to deploy the vaccine in its EPI programme, a milestone for the country.

Malaria is the number one killer of under five children in Cameroon representing 13.7 per cent of deaths. The new vaccine is thus a great source of hope for the parents of 6-month-old children in 42 of the 200 districts that counts the country. Thanks to an improved use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and preventive seasonal treatment, the prevalence rate slightly decreased between 2011 and 2018, from 30 per cent to 24 per cent.

“It is a start, and we expect scaling up very soon for all the under five children in Cameroon,” said Nadine Perrault, UNICEF representative. Alongside with the Ministry of health and the EPI, UNICEF played a major role in this milestone with the procurement, transportation, and distribution of the #vaccines, as well as the organization of training programs for healthcare personnel, and continues to support these professionals in their vital role of engaging with parents and communities to ensure the success of this life-saving initiative.