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Malaria vaccine: why we should keep some perspective with children and COVID-19

Malaria kills 260,000 children under five a year in Africa, so a new vaccine is a life-changer

African parents are to be offered a life-saving vaccine for malaria, which kills 260,000 children under five every year

Amid the rollout of a malaria vaccine for children in endemic areas worldwide, there is controversy about the vaccination of children for COVID-19 in the UK .

Every child death is a tragedy. There have been more than 430 COVID-19-linked child deaths in the UK and as the grief rippled out from each of them, families, communities, schools and neighbourhoods were adversely affected. Nevertheless,

African parents are to be offered a life-saving vaccine for malaria, which kills 260,000 children under five every year

A nurse preparing a vaccine against Malaria for infants at the Yala Sub County Hospital, Kenya
A nurse preparing a vaccine against malaria for infants at the Yala Sub County Hospital, Kenya
Picture: Alamy

Amid the rollout of a malaria vaccine for children in endemic areas worldwide, there is controversy about the vaccination of children for COVID-19 in the UK.

Every child death is a tragedy. There have been more than 430 COVID-19-linked child deaths in the UK and as the grief rippled out from each of them, families, communities, schools and neighbourhoods were adversely affected. Nevertheless, COVID-19 was not a major cause of death in children in the UK during the pandemic.

A detailed examination of the National Child Mortality Database has concluded that there is little to suggest excessive mortality during the lockdown period.

Pandemic panic

When compared with more than 260,000 African children under five years who die of malaria a year there is a need to keep some perspective in pandemic panic. Fortunately, there is now a vaccination for malaria and a plan to fund it and roll it out.

This will not be easy because of the enormous challenges healthcare professionals face worldwide. Even in modern settings with reasonable roads, communication and health infrastructure primary healthcare can be difficult.

Health visitor diaries provide insight into the difficulties faced by the health visiting profession. Where resources are more stretched and, in some cases, non-existent there will be even more difficulty encountered.

Misinformation

Then there is community acceptance of the malaria vaccine. There was misinformation and considerable hesitancy in some of our communities in accepting the COVID-19 vaccine, with some parents in the UK threatening court action in situations where a child consents but is vaccinated against the parents’ will.

Hopefully in the face of the grave danger malaria presents, vaccine hesitancy will be kept to a minimum and uptake of this vaccine will be strong.

The Northern Ireland Specialist Transport and Retrieval team
The Northern Ireland Specialist Transport and Retrieval team (left to right): lead nurse Emma Thompson, transport nurses Vicky Harte and Linda McCready, team coordinator Cara Barbour, trainee advanced nurse practitioner Lynsey Freeburn and transport nurse Natasha Lee

RCN Nurse AwardsFinally, I want to pay tribute here to the nurse-led transfer team in the UK and Ireland who have won this year’s RCN Nursing Awards child health category.

The Northern Ireland Specialist Transport and Retrieval team, from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, launched the service, which transfers children and young people from Northern Ireland to Dublin for specialist life-saving treatment. This job was previously done by critical care teams.

Since the launch of the service last year the team have completed hundreds of transfers and feedback has been positive.

Many congratulations to them and to all the finalists.


 Doreen Crawford, consultant editor of Nursing Children and Young People, and consultant nurse with Crawford McKenzie

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