WHO approves global use of new malaria vaccine

Kenya was among the first countries to introduce the vaccine in 2019.

An Anopheles stephensi mosquito obtains a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters November 23, 2015.    REUTERS/Jim Gathany/CDC/Handout via Reuters

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the widespread use of the world's first malaria vaccine for children.

As part of the information received, the recommendation of RTS, S/AS01 or Mosquirix, malaria vaccine is based on the results of a pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, which was launched in 2019.

“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

“This is a vaccine developed in Africa by African scientists and we’re very proud. This vaccine is a gift to the world but its value will be felt most in Africa,” Dr. Ghebreyesus concluded.

Malaria is far more deadly than Covid-19 in Africa. It killed 386,000 Africans in 2019, according to a WHO estimate, compared with 212,000 confirmed deaths from Covid-19 in the past 18 months.

The WHO says 94 per cent of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people. The preventable disease is caused by parasites transmitted to people by the bites of infected mosquitoes; symptoms include fever, vomiting and fatigue.

The vaccine will be administered to children under two and could be crucial to efforts to combat the disease.

Other measures, such as nets to protect people from the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite, have not proven adequate to halt transmission.

The vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing severe cases of malaria in children is only around 30 per cent, but it is the only approved vaccine. The European Union’s drugs regulator approved it in 2015, saying its benefits outweighed the risks.

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