The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed on Oct. 6 the widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine for at-risk children across Africa.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health, and malaria control,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Developed by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, the RTS,S vaccine — also known as Mosquinx — will be broadly deployed to children from five months of age living in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high transmission of the deadly disease as defined by WHO.
“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 Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said.
The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot program in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that showed a “significant” reduction (30%) in deadly severe malaria, including in areas where insecticide-treated bed nets are widely used.
The pilot program found that two-thirds of the children in the three countries who are not sleeping under a bed net are benefitting from the vaccine.
Results also showed a “favorable” safety profile as over 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have already been administered.
The pilot program also showed that the vaccine can easily be delivered through child health clinics by Ministries of Health, according to Tedros.
“This vaccine is a gift to the world, but its value will be felt most in Africa, because that’s where the burden of malaria is greatest,” Tedros said.
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