The World Health Organization (WHO) approved the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine on Wednesday. This is also the world’s first vaccine against the mosquito-borne disease that kills over 400,000 people each year, largely African children.
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WHO Recommends World’s First Malaria Vaccine
“Today, WHO recommends widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director-general.
The decision was taken following an evaluation of a pilot program running in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi since 2019. The program has handed out over two million doses of the vaccine- first developed by GSK in 1987- so far.
WHO now recommends “the widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine” after analyzing evidence from those nations, according to director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The body has further provided some basic guidelines for the administration of the vaccine. Children in Sub-Saharan Africa and regions with moderate to high malaria transmission should receive four doses up to the age of two.
The Malaria Threat
As per UNICEF, a child dies of malaria every two minutes. According to WHO 2019 estimates, over 50% of total malaria deaths occur in just six Sub-Saharan African countries. Nigeria alone accounts for over a quarter of all deaths out of these nations. Fever, headaches, and muscle discomfort are common symptoms, followed by chills, fever, and sweating in cycles.
According to Kate O’Brien, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, the vaccine “substantially reduces severe malaria, which is the lethal variety, by 30%”. The vaccination has been deemed effective now.
“It’s also reaching out to the unreached,” she added. In those nations, the vaccine is now available to two-thirds of children who do not sleep behind a bed net.
There are currently many vaccines available against viruses and bacteria. But this is the first time WHO has recommended a vaccine against a parasite affecting humans for widespread use. The vaccine protects against plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous of the five malaria parasite species.
“From a scientific standpoint, this is a huge breakthrough,” Pedro Alonso, Director of the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Programme, said.
BioNTech Plans for Malaria Vaccines
BioNTech, which collaborated with Pfizer to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, also said that it plans to begin malaria vaccine trials next year using the same revolutionary mRNA technology.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization expects that the latest suggestion will inspire scientists to produce additional malaria vaccinations.