The only approved vaccine against malaria has been recommended for use among children across Africa – a historic and hopeful moment in the fight against an infectious disease that has plagued humanity for hundreds of years.
Developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, the vaccine was first proven effective six years ago and has already been launched as part of a pilot vaccination program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
After reviewing the results of the pilot, the World Health Organization said the vaccine should be introduced in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high transmission levels of malaria – an infection that kills more than 400,000 people annually. most of which are infants and toddlers.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
“Using this vaccine on top of existing equipment to prevent malaria could save thousands of young lives each year.”
Scientists have been trying to create a vaccine against malaria caused by the Plasmodium parasite since 1907. GlaxoSmithKline made the first breakthrough with its jab, which is to be offered as four doses to babies as young as five months old.
The WHO fears an increase in the number of malaria infections and deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 18 months may be due to disruptions to prevention and treatment efforts caused by COVID-19. Before the pandemic, it had also reported a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.
Now, however, there is optimism that Africa can begin to turn the tide against malaria.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said: “This recommendation provides a ray of hope for the continent that is most burdened by the disease and we hope that many more African children will be protected from malaria and healthy. will develop into adults.”
To date, WHO’s pilot program has delivered more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine, known as RTS,S.
Results showed the vaccine was safe and reduced severe malaria by 30 percent, even in areas where insecticide-treated nets are widely used and there is good access to diagnosis and treatment. Is.
The pilot, which is underway, also found that the vaccine had no negative effect on other measures to prevent malaria, and was highly cost-effective.
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