The Government of Malawi has begun administering the world's first approved malaria vaccine to young children as part of a comprehensive pilot program that could save tens of thousands of lives a year in some of Africa's poorest regions.
The World Health Organization announced on Tuesday that children in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana would soon receive injections of the vaccine known as RTS, S. The vaccine is the only one currently on the market, although the vaccine protects only about a third of people from the mosquito-born disease. However, RTS, S also shows a significant reduction in severity for those who receive the injection and are already suffering from malaria.
"We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other malaria control measures over the last 1
The WHO estimates that at least 360,000 children are vaccinated every year in all three countries. GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that developed the vaccine, said it would donate up to 10 million doses as part of the pilot project. The Associated Press has taken the company more than 30 years to develop RTS, S. The vaccine was first approved in 2015.
Worldwide, there are more than 200 million malaria cases each year. According to the WHO, about 435,000 people die every year from the disease. STAT News finds that people can become infected several times over the course of their lives, and some children infected with mosquitoes can develop deadly cases of severe malaria.
The pilot program will continue for four years to see if and how the vaccine is suitable. Indeed, it does protect children in clinical trials. RTS, S must be administered in four different doses to see the reduction numbers that have been denounced in studies that some critics claim are difficult to implement in the real world.
"Nobody says that this is a magic bullet," says David Schellenberg, a scientist working with WHO's Global Malaria Program, the BBC said. "It may not sound like much, but we're talking about a 40% reduction in severe malaria, which unfortunately still has a high mortality rate, even if you have good access to good treatment."
The AP posts Find that many common vaccines, including those that are present for polio and measles are usually more than 90% effective.
"We know the power of vaccines to prevent childhood killings and reach out to children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses, and health facilities they need to rescue them when they get serious illness," Matshidiso said Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement. "This is a day to celebrate as we begin to learn more about what this tool can do to change the trajectory of malaria through childhood vaccinations."