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Historic! WHO clears vaccine for Falciparum Malaria

Recommends RTS,S/AS01

The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control, said WHO Director-General

GENEVA, Oct 7 (Ther CONNECT) - The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.

The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.

“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.”

Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260 000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.

In recent years, WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.

"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.”

The malaria vaccine, RTS,S, acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa.

The Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme is generating evidence and experience on the feasibility, impact and safety of the RTS,S malaria vaccine in real-life, routine settings in selected areas of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Pilot malaria vaccine introductions are led by the Ministries of Health of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

The pilot programme will continue in the 3 pilot countries to understand the added value of the 4th vaccine dose, and to measure longer-term impact on child deaths.

The Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme is coordinated by WHO and supported by in-country and international partners, including PATH, UNICEF and GSK, which is donating up to 10 million doses of the vaccine for the pilot.

The RTS,S malaria vaccine is the result of 30 years of research and development by GSK and through a partnership with PATH, with support from a network of African research centres. 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided catalytic funding for late-stage development of RTS,S between 2001 and 2015.

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