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Malaria: WHO approves vaccine for children at risk

By Our Reporter

In what can be described as a major breakthrough and a life-saver for children in Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.

The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.

Reacting to the development, the WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control.

“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260 000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.

In recent years, WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.

On her part, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said: “For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering.

“We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use.

“Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.”

Based on the advice of two WHO global advisory bodies, one for immunization and the other for malaria, WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control, the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO.

RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.

Next steps for the WHO-recommended malaria vaccine will include funding decisions from the global health community for broader rollout, and country decision-making on whether to adopt the vaccine as part of national malaria control strategies.

Financing for the pilot programme has been mobilized through an unprecedented collaboration among three key global health funding bodies: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and Unitaid.

Key findings of the pilots informed the recommendation based on data and insights generated from two years of vaccination in child health clinics in the three pilot countries, implemented under the leadership of the Ministries of Health of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi

Written by ExpressDay

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