6th October (WNN) — The World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended a wider rollout of the world’s first malaria vaccine for children after a two-year pilot program showed promising results.
The RTS,S vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline has been in use since 2019 as part of a pilot program to test its safety and efficacy in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. The vaccine was given to more than 800,000 children in three countries.
The children were given three doses of the vaccine at approximately five monthly intervals between the ages of 5 and 6 months, with the final fourth dose approximately 18 months after the first.
Clinical trials of the vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, found that after the first three doses of the vaccine, malaria cases in children aged 5 to 17 years were reduced by about half, and by 6 weeks. There has been a reduction of 27% in infants between 12 weeks old.
The vaccine’s ability to protect against malaria infection fades after a year, but when combined with other efforts, such as treated beds, the researchers said it would be effective in reducing malaria cases and deaths.
Vaccine development was particularly difficult because it is the first to target parasites in humans, not just bacterial or viral infections.
“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 Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Using this vaccine on top of existing equipment to prevent malaria could save thousands of young lives each year.”
The WHO said that every year more than 260,000 African children under the age of 5 die from malaria. The WHO recommends that children living in areas with moderate to high transmission of the parasite, as defined by the agency, be given the vaccine.
“For centuries, malaria has plagued sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “We have long been hoping for an effective malaria vaccine and now, for the first time, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent that is most heavily affected by the disease. burden and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and develop into healthy adults.”