The World Health Organization, WHO, has endorsed the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine, the first against the mosquito-borne disease that kills more than 400,000 people a year, mostly African children.
The decision followed a review of a pilot programme deployed since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi where more than two million doses were given of the vaccine, first made by the pharmaceutical company GSK in 1987.
After reviewing evidence from the 3 countries, WHO said it was “recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine”, the agency’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The WHO said in a statement it was recommending the widespread application of the vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.
Many vaccines exist against viruses and bacteria but this was the first time that the WHO recommended for broad use of a vaccine against a human parasite.
Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme hailed the approval as a massive breakthrough.
The vaccine acts against plasmodium falciparum — one of the 5 parasite species and the most deadly.
Malaria symptoms include fever, headaches and muscle pain, then cycles of chills, fever and sweating.
Every two minutes, a child dies of malaria, according to the World Health Organization.
The next step on this long journey of finding a Malaria vaccine will be the issue of funding for it to reach vulnerable African children.