The World Health Organization on Wednesday approved the RTS malaria vaccine, S / AS01, the first against the mosquito disease that kills more than 400,000 people a year, mostly African children.
The decision followed a review of a pilot program established since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, in which more than two million doses of the vaccine were given, first made by the pharmaceutical company GSK in 1987.
After reviewing evidence from those countries, the WHO said it was “recommending the widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine,” said Adedom Ghebreyesus, director general of the Tedros agency.
The WHO said it was recommending that children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate and high malaria transmission receive four doses by the age of two.
Every two minutes, a child dies from malaria, the agency said.
More than half of malaria deaths worldwide occur in six sub-Saharan African countries and almost a quarter occur in Nigeria alone, according to WHO figures for 2019.
Symptoms include fever, headache, and muscle aches, followed by chills, fever, and sweating.
The findings from the vaccine pilot showed that it “significantly reduces severe malaria, which is a deadly form by 30 percent,” said Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biology.
The vaccine is “feasible to deliver”, she added, and “is also reaching unattainable… Two-thirds of children who do not sleep under a crib in those places are now benefiting from the vaccine.”
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