Challenges and lessons learned during the planning and early implementation of the RTS,S/AS01E malaria vaccine in three regions of Ghana: a qualitative study

Malar J. 2022 May 12;21(1):147. doi: 10.1186/s12936-022-04168-9.


Background: In 2019, the RTS,S/AS01E malaria vaccine was introduced on a pilot basis in six regions of Ghana by the Ministry of Health/Ghana Health Service as part of the WHO-coordinated Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP). This is the first time a malaria vaccination programme has been implemented in any country. This paper describes the challenges faced, and lessons learned, during the planning and early implementation of the RTS,S/AS01E vaccine in three out of the six regions that implemented the programme in Ghana.

Methods: Twenty-one in-depth interviews were conducted with regional and district health service managers and frontline health workers three months after the start of MVIP in May 2019. Data were coded using NVivo software version 12 and a coding framework was developed to support thematic analysis to identify the challenges and lessons learned during the RTS,S/AS01E implementation pilot, which were also categorized into the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR).

Results: Participants reported challenges related to the characteristics of the intervention, such as issues with the vaccine schedule and eligibility criteria, and challenges related to how it was implemented as a pilot programme. Additionally, major challenges were faced due to the spread of rumours leading to vaccine refusals; thus, the outer setting of the CFIR was adapted to accommodate rumours within the community context. Health service managers and frontline health workers also experienced challenges with the process of implementing RTS,S/AS01E, including inadequate sensitization and training, as well as issues with the timeline. They also experienced challenges associated with the features of the systems within which the vaccine was being implemented, including inadequate resources for cold-chain at the health facility level and transportation at the district and health facility levels. This study identified the need for a longer, more intensive and sustained delivery of contextually-appropriate sensitization prior to implementation of a programme such as MVIP.

Conclusions: This study identified 12 main challenges and lessons learned by health service managers and health workers during the planning and early implementation phases of the RTS,S/AS01E pilot introduction in Ghana. These findings are highly relevant to the likely scale-up of RTS,S/AS01E within Ghana and possible implementation in other African countries, as well as to other future introductions of novel vaccines.

Keywords: CFIR; Ghana; Malaria; Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme; RTS,S; Vaccine introduction.

MeSH terms

  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Immunization Schedule
  • Infant
  • Malaria Vaccines*
  • Malaria* / prevention & control
  • Malaria, Falciparum* / prevention & control


  • Malaria Vaccines