WHO Endorses First Malaria Vaccine for Children

World Health Organization (WHO) on May 22, 2020 in Geneva shows WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attending the 147th session of the WHO Executive Board held virtually by videoconference, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Christopher Black / World Health Organization / AFP)

The World Health Organisation has approved the first malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01) against the mosquito-borne disease responsible for the annual death of over 400,000 persons, mostly African children.

The decision was reached after reviewing a 2019 pilot programme deployed in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi where more than two million doses made by the pharmaceutical company GSK in 1987 were deployed.

After reviewing evidence from those countries, director general of the agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO is “recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine…”

The WHO said in a statement it was recommending the widespread application of the vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high rate of malaria transmission.

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Although there are many vaccines against viruses and bacteria, this is the first time that the WHO recommended for broad use of a vaccine against a human parasite.

Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, Pedro Alonso said “From a scientific perspective this is a massive breakthrough”

The vaccine acts against plasmodium falciparum — one of five most deadly parasite species.
Malaria symptoms include fever, headaches and muscle pain, then cycles of chills, fever and sweating.

According to the World Health Organisation, a child dies of malaria every two minutes.

Depending on funding,the newly recommended vaccine can reach African children in good time.

Director of WHO’s Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals, Kate O’Brien explains that funding will be the next major step. “Then we will be set up for scaling of doses and decisions about where the vaccine will be most useful and how it will be deployed,” she added.

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