World's First Malaria Vaccine Launched In Africa

World's First Malaria Vaccine Launched In Africa

World's First Malaria Vaccine Launched In Africa

Mary Hamel, MD, senior technical officer of the WHO's RTS, S Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program, called in from Malawi, where she had witnessed the first day of the rollout. Clinical trials found that the vaccine prevented approximately four in 10 malaria cases in children, according to the WHO.

360,000 children are expected to take the injectable vaccines within a year after the pilot is also rolled out in Ghana and Kenya where children aged between 5 and 17 months would be injected. The parasite, which enters the body through mosquito bites, kills thousands of people across the world every year, with Sub-Saharan Africa carrying a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden.

"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", said World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO acknowledges the same and says that the new vaccine will be an additional tool in the fight against malaria. Worldwide, malaria kills 435,000 people a year, a lot of them children.

The pilot programme is a collaboration between the United Nations and ministries of health in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi and a range of other national and global partners, including PATH, a non-profit organization, and GSK, the vaccine developer and manufacturer, which is donating up to 10 million doses for this pilot. Children are the most vulnerable group that are susceptible to contracting this disease.

The fight against malaria has also been complicated by mosquitoes building up resistance to some commonly used insecticides, according to WHO. More than 250,000 African children die of the disease every year.

"This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like", Craig said.

Although the vaccine only protects about one third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria.

The Malawi pilot, aimed at gathering evidence to inform World Health Organization policy on broader use of the vaccine, is one of three large-scale trials.

RTS, S has been more than three decades in the making, with scientists from drugs company GSK creating it in 1987.

Malawi, Ghana and Kenya were selected for the trial because malaria rates are high and they have a long history of use of bed nets and other preventative measures.

"A vaccine for malaria is among many innovations needed to bring an end to this disease", said Davis. Concerns have previously been expressed over the practicality of the number and the timing of doses required - once a month for three months and then again at 18 months - which is out of sync with typical immunisation schedules in poorer countries.

Developed by the British pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the Mosquirix vaccine was developed after three decades of research and trials, costing almost one billion U.S dollars.

Malaria episodes reduced by 40 percent in the trials.

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