The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P.falciparum malaria transmission. The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited 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 the disease could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
“I started my career as a malaria researcher, and I longed for the day that we would have an effective vaccine against this ancient and terrible disease. Today is that day”, he added
The disease remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually. Malaria claims more than 400,000 lives every year. Nine out of 10 malaria victims live in Africa, most of them children under the age of five.
WHO approves long-awaited Malaria vaccine for Africa
In recent years, WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.
“For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use.
Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.”
WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO.
The RTS,S/AS01 vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of the disease and burden.
“The malaria vaccine is safe & significantly reduces life-threatening severe disease. It can be delivered through child health clinics by Ministries of Health, & reach children at high coverage levels. Community demand is strong. And we estimate it to be highly cost-effective“, stated WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“This long-awaited vaccine, developed in Africa, by African scientists, is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.” He added.
Author: Moses Echodu
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