The first rollout of a malaria vaccine in Malawi could lessen the burden of the disease in children under two years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to WHO, 250,000 African children die from the disease every year. Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes. Children under 5 are at greatest risk of its life-threatening complications. Worldwide, malaria kills 435 000 people a year, most of them children.
Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.“We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas. We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there. The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives.”
Thirty years in the making, RTS,S is the first, and to date the only, vaccine that has demonstrated it can significantly reduce malaria in children.
Regional Director of WHO for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said. “Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given. The poorest children suffer the most and are at highest risk of death. We know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and reach children. Including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities. They need to save them when severe illness comes. This is a day to celebrate as we begin to learn more about what this tool can do. What it does to change the trajectory of malaria through childhood vaccination.”
The vaccine is a complementary malaria control tool. It is to be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.