World’s First Malaria Vaccine: The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed the first anti-malarial vaccine. WHO said it is recommending the widespread use of malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.
WHO Chief on World’s First Malaria Vaccine
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the long-awaited World’s First Malaria Vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. He said using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.
Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO.
WHO recommendation for the RTS,S malaria vaccine
Based on the advice of two WHO global advisory bodies, one for immunization and the other for malaria, the Organization recommends that:
WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO.
RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.
Key findings of the Malaria Vaccine pilots
Key findings of the pilots informed the recommendation based on data and insights generated from two years of vaccination in child health clinics in the three pilot countries, implemented under the leadership of the Ministries of Health of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Findings include:
- Feasible to deliver: Vaccine introduction is feasible, improves health and saves lives, with good and equitable coverage of RTS,S seen through routine immunization systems. This occurred even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Reaching the unreached: RTS,S increases equity in access to malaria prevention.
- Data from the pilot programme showed that more than two-thirds of children in the 3 countries who are not sleeping under a bednet are benefitting from the RTS,S vaccine.
- Layering the tools results in over 90% of children benefitting from at least one preventive intervention (insecticide treated bednets or the malaria vaccine).
- Strong safety profile: To date, more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in 3 African countries – the vaccine has a favorable safety profile.
- No negative impact on uptake of bednets, other childhood vaccinations, or health seeking behavior for febrile illness. In areas where the vaccine has been introduced, there has been no decrease in the use of insecticide-treated nets, uptake of other childhood vaccinations or health seeking behavior for febrile illness.
- High impact in real-life childhood vaccination settings: Significant reduction (30%) in deadly severe malaria, even when introduced in areas where insecticide-treated nets are widely used and there is good access to diagnosis and treatment.
- Highly cost-effective: Modelling estimates that the vaccine is cost effective in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission.
Next steps for the WHO-recommended malaria vaccine will include funding decisions from the global health community for broader rollout, and country decision-making on whether to adopt the vaccine as part of national malaria control strategies.
Countries that have eliminated malaria
In 2019, 27 countries reported fewer than 100 indigenous cases of the disease, up from 6 countries in 2000.
Over the last two decades, 11 countries have been certified by the WHO Director-General as malaria-free: United Arab Emirates (2007), Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010), Armenia (2011), Sri Lanka (2016), Kyrgyzstan (2016), Paraguay (2018), Uzbekistan (2018), Algeria (2019), Argentina (2019), and El Salvador (2021).
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