The World Health Organization (WHO) approved, Wednesday, October 6, the very first vaccine to prevent malaria. It therefore recommends its massive deployment among children in sub-Saharan Africa.
This vaccine, manufactured by the British laboratory GlaxoSmithKline, aims to fight against the disease which kills around half a million people each year, almost all in sub-Saharan Africa, including 260,000 children under the age of 5.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
“For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults,” she added.
The new RTS, S vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, stimulates a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the five malaria pathogens and the most common in Africa.
The vaccine is not only a first for malaria: it is the first developed for a parasitic disease.