Alumnus Pens WHO Bulletin Editorial

Dr Kapil Narain.

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UKZN alumnus, multi-award-winning youth leader, One Young World ambassador, medical doctor, and activist, Dr Kapil Narain was selected to publish an editorial in the official journal of the World Health Organization (WHO), The Bulletin. The journal is ranked 7th out of 193 journals in the field of public, occupational and environmental health and is amongst the top 2.4% of journals internationally.

The editorial, Strategies for malaria vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic in African countries, focuses on the mechanisms governments and stakeholders can adopt to ensure the successful rollout of the malaria vaccine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

Since 2021, the WHO has recommended the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine for children in areas of moderate to high transmission. Effective roll-out in Africa can only be achieved if region-specific challenges are overcome. The pandemic exposed stark healthcare inequalities on the continent, with malaria prevention and treatment amongst the health services that were disrupted as COVID-19 took priority.

Narain notes that health systems will need to formulate a short-term action plan for timely malaria vaccine delivery, based on the disease burden. Local social support organisations should be brought on board to achieve this goal. Regular surveillance of the malaria response is also required.

‘I initially submitted this as a perspective, but the academic board elevated it to an editorial. It was an absolute honour as an editorial in an academic journal is usually by invitation, and is written by professors or experts in a field,’ he said.

Amongst his many achievements, Narain has served as a member of the African Youth Front and is the former Chair of the COVID-19 Technical Working Group at the Federation of African Medical Students’ Association.

In 2020, he was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans and was the youngest in the Health Category.

His activism not only includes leading initiatives to tackle the stigma surrounding TB, HIV and mental health but also supporting the struggle for gender equality and raising awareness of the challenges confronting frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He serves on the advisory board for the African Forum for Primary Health Care (AfroPHC) and is the Deputy Chair of the Active Citizens Movement and Chair of the Africa Healthcare Students Summit.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: Supplied