WHO Hails Malawi for Launching Landmark Malaria Vaccine - Statement

WHO Hails Malawi for Launching Landmark Malaria Vaccine - Statement

The vaccine is being called RTS, S. It is the first, and to date, the only, vaccine that has demonstrated it can significantly reduce malaria in children.

The other two pilot countries Ghana and Kenya will begin vaccination next week. "But it is very important to bear in mind that 40 per cent protection in the most endemic part of the world, Africa, is better than no protection at all".

The malaria vaccine pilot aims to reach about 360,000 children each year. Craig said that immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could save thousands from falling ill or dying. Of these, 4.03 lakh deaths were in Africa alone.

"We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Kate O'Brien, MD, director of the WHO's Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals outlined how this vaccine represents a series of firsts - among them, it was the first and only vaccine to show some protection against malaria in Africa (namely against the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, the most prevalent on the continent), the first malaria vaccine to be recommended by the World Health Organization, and the first vaccine to reach children in Africa through a routine immunization program, not a clinical trial. In 2018, 399134 malaria cases were reported in the country, says data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.

The countries were picked because they already run large programmes to tackle malaria, including the use of bed nets, yet still have high numbers of cases.

However, the overall scenario across the world was different.

The WHO's latest report on malaria showed that the number of cases climbed to 219 million in 2017, two million more than in 2016.

WHO's Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said malaria was "a constant threat" to the communities where it was being administered in the coming weeks.

Craig said one of health officials' biggest challenges could be persuading parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that protects only about a third of children for a limited amount of time. Based on these results, the World Health Organization will expand the availability of the vaccine across the globe. It was successful in approximately four in 10 cases, including three in 10 cases, where the disease was life-threatening to the young patient.

Developed by the British pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the Mosquirix vaccine was developed after three decades of research and trials, costing almost one billion U.S dollars.

The company created Mosquirix in 1987, and it has since undergone years of tests.

Financing for the pilot programme was mobilised through collaboration among three key global health funding bodies, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Unitaid.

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