Health and Healthcare Systems

Cameroon starts malaria vaccine programme, and other health stories you need to know this week

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A nurse fills a syringe with malaria vaccine before administering it to an infant at the Lumumba Sub-County hospital in Kisumu, Kenya.

The new vaccine programme follows successful trials across Africa. Image: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: Measles cases jump in Europe; World's first routine malaria vaccine programme starts; WHO calls for funding to help in humanitarian crises.

1. Rising measles cases in Europe

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported an "alarming" increase in measles cases in Europe in 2023, with numbers still rising, the BBC reports.

There were more than 42,000 cases last year on the continent, compared to just 941 during the whole of 2022. This is likely being driven as a result of fewer children being vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the WHO.

Earlier in January, the UK's health agency also issued a warning over a measles outbreak in Central England that could spread to other regions.

"With vaccine uptake in some communities so low, there is now a very real risk of seeing the virus spread in other towns and cities," UK Health Security Agency Chief Executive Jenny Harries said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also warned measles cases are likely to spread, despite the disease being eradicated in the country in 2000. The CDC says this reemergence and spread is primarily the result of vaccine scepticism.

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2. Cameroon starts world's first routine malaria vaccine programme

The world's first routine malaria vaccine programme has started in Cameroon. Using the WHO-approved RTS,S vaccine developed by British drugmaker GSK, it follows successful trials in countries including Kenya and Ghana.

The routine programme is planned for roll out to 19 other countries this year, according to the global vaccine alliance, Gavi. The vaccine is designed to be used in conjunction with traditional preventative measures, for example, bed nets.

It's hoped in the next year around 6.6 million children could be vaccinated, and that a second malaria vaccine – developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India – could be launched in May or June, easing supply concerns.

"Having two vaccines for malaria will help to close the huge gap between demand and supply and could save tens of thousands of young lives, especially in Africa," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO.

Malaria deaths by world region.
The majority of the world's malaria deaths are in Africa. Image: Our World in Data

3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

A new study has issued a warning about the risk of hearing damage from video games. The review, published in BMJ Public Health, says gamers often play for long periods with the volume at unsafe levels, reports the BBC.

The largest-ever study of ocean DNA has revealed abundant fungi living in the ocean's twilight zone, The Guardian reports. The research offers hope for the discovery of new penicillin-like drugs.

Earlier in January, the WHO issued an appeal for $1.5 billion in funding to help those caught in humanitarian crises around the world.

UK research has found that singing or playing a musical instrument in older age could help protect brain health. The study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, said that it could sustain good memory and the ability to solve complex tasks.

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A trial for a vaccine to treat early bowel cancer is being launched in the UK and Australia. During the 18-month study, 44 patients will be enrolled in 10 sites across the two countries.

The WHO has warned that shortages of popular diabetes drugs also used for weight loss are linked to rising reports of suspected counterfeits.

The UK has announced plans to ban disposable vapes, in a move aimed at reducing the number of children who are taking up vaping.

4. More on health from Agenda

The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting took place in Davos earlier in January. From closing the gender gap in healthcare to the impact of AI, here's what we learned about health and healthcare at Davos 2024.

The rise of drug-resistant bacteria means outbreaks of once-treatable infections are becoming a major health security problem. Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, explores the problem.

Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association, looks at the risks of declining trust in science and healthcare, and how we can tackle misinformation.

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Contents
1. Rising measles cases in Europe2. Cameroon starts world's first routine malaria vaccine programme3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world4. More on health from Agenda

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