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Over One Million Children In Africa Have Taken Malaria Vaccine – WHO

Akinola Ajibola  
Updated April 22, 2022
File photo.

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says at least one million children in Africa have received one or more doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine.

Children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi were captured in the pilot programme coordinated by WHO, the agency said in a statement on Thursday ahead of World Malaria Day.

The malaria vaccine pilots, first launched by the government of Malawi in April 2019, have shown that the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) vaccine is safe and feasible to deliver, and that it substantially reduces deadly severe malaria, it added.

“As a malaria researcher in my early career, I dreamed of the day we would have an effective vaccine against this devastating disease,” WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was quoted as saying.

“This vaccine is not just a scientific breakthrough, it’s life-changing for families across Africa. It demonstrates the power of science and innovation for health. Even so, there is an urgent need to develop more and better tools to save lives and drive progress towards a malaria-free world.”

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According to the WHO, these findings paved the way for its historic recommendation of October 2021 for the expanded use of RTS,S among children living in settings with moderate to high malaria transmission.

If widely deployed, the agency estimates that the vaccine could save the lives of an additional 40,000 to 80,000 African children each year.

It revealed that no fewer than $155 million has been secured from Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance to support the introduction, procurement, and delivery of the malaria vaccine for Gavi-eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

WHO said its guidance was available to countries as they consider whether and how to adopt RTS,S as an additional tool to reduce child illness and deaths from malaria.

RTS,S is a first-generation vaccine that could be complemented in the future by other vaccines with similar or higher efficacy, and WHO welcomes progress in the development of R21/Matrix-M and other malaria vaccine candidates in early clinical development.

The successful completion of clinical trials for these vaccines, according to the agency, will be important to assess their safety and efficacy profiles.

WHO also welcomes the news from BioNTech, manufacturer of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, that it aims to develop a malaria vaccine using mRNA technology.