- The World Health Organization endorsed the first malaria vaccine, RTS,S/AS01.
- Studies reveal that it only prevents infection in 40% of cases and lowers severe malaria by 30%.
- The next difficulty will be to distribute the vaccination across the African continent.
WHO greenlights world’s first malaria vaccine
Following a successful pilot trial involving over one million children, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now proposing that the world’s first malaria vaccine be used widely throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. It is believed that the groundbreaking vaccination would save the lives of tens of thousands of youngsters in the coming years.
RTS,S/AS01 (or, more lately, Mosquirix) is the result of more than 30 years of study. Following extensive clinical testing, a major pilot study to further confirm the vaccine’s effectiveness began in 2019.
More than 800,000 children were immunized as part of the pilot program, which covered Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya. The malaria vaccine is safe and effective, according to a recent WHO review of the continuing pilot trial. The assessment also discovered that when scaled up to large populations, the potentially complicated four-dose schedule is a workable methodology.
“This is a historic moment,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who began his medical career as a malaria researcher. “The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a scientific, child health, and malaria control breakthrough.” Using this vaccination in addition to existing malaria prevention methods might save tens of thousands of child lives each year.”
Malaria kills about 260,000 children in Africa alone each year. Concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of RTS,S/AS01, with studies revealing that it only prevents infection in 40% of cases and lowers severe malaria by 30%. Even if its efficiency is just moderate, a vaccination like this may avert a considerable quantity of mortality and sickness.
The malaria vaccine’s safety profile has also been validated by a large pilot study over the last few years. Researchers can now confirm that the vaccination is not associated with any previously suspected side effects, such as meningitis, after administering over 2.3 million doses.
Developing funding strategies for distribution
The next difficulty will be to distribute the malaria vaccine across the African continent. Each country’s malaria control body will decide whether and how to roll out the vaccine, while the WHO will collaborate with global health organizations such as UNICEF, Unitaid, The Global Fund, and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, to develop funding strategies to ensure the vaccine is distributed efficiently and equitably.
“This vaccination is a welcome new tool that, when combined with current programs like bed nets, has the potential to drive down malaria and expand protection to children across Africa,” says Philippe Duneton, executive director of Unitaid. “Pilot implementation has shown how we can reach children equitably with this life-saving vaccine — now we need to secure enough and cheap supplies to properly reignite the battle against malaria.”