In a landmark event, the World Health Organization has recommended that the first malaria vaccine be distributed to children living in sub-Saharan Africa and in high-risk areas.
“The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a scientific advance, for child health and for the fight against malaria,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press release on Wednesday.
“Using this vaccine in addition to the tools available to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives every year,” he added.
The RTS,S vaccine works against a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, which is the most deadly parasite in the world and the most prevalent in Africa.
The vaccine is also a ray of hope for Africa, where malaria kills more than 260,000 children under the age of five each year, especially as concerns about malaria drug resistance grow.
“For centuries, malaria has plagued sub-Saharan Africa and caused tremendous suffering,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“We’ve held out for years our hope of getting an effective malaria vaccine, and now, for the first time, we have a vaccine recommended for widespread use,” he added.
It is noteworthy that three countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, have since 2019 started using the vaccine in selected areas where malaria transmission is moderate to severe.
Two years after the start of the world’s first on-the-ground testing of this vaccine, 2.3 million doses have been administered.