NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 7 – The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday endorsed the 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 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.
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.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said it was a historic moment which could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.
“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,” said WHO Director-General.
Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.
Based on the advice of two WHO global advisory bodies, the RTS,S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine should be provided in a schedule of four doses in children from five months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.
On his part, WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti, noted that in recent years, the Organisation and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.
“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,” Moeti said.
Next steps for the WHO-recommended Malaria Vaccine will include funding decisions from the global health community for broader roll-out, 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,” read a statement from WHO.