The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the widespread rollout of the first Malaria Vaccine, a move experts hope could save tens of thousands of children’s lives annually.
The WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus proclaimed on Wednesday that after a successful pilot programme in three African countries the “Mosquirix” vaccine should be made more widely accessible.
“I started my career as a malaria researcher, and I longed for the day that we would have an effective vaccine against this ancient and terrible disease, and today is that day, an historic day. Today, the WHO is recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine,” Tedros said at a press conference in Geneva.
The “Mosquirix” vaccine was developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and has been administered to more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since the pilot programme began in 2019.
The vaccine, which went through lengthy clinical trials, has limited efficacy, preventing 39 percent of malaria cases and 29 percent of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years of trials.
However, in August, a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that when young children were given both the “Mosquirix” vaccine and antimalarial drugs there was a 70 percent reduction in hospitalization or death.
“Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” said the Director General on Wednesday. “It is safe. It significantly reduces life-threatening, severe malaria, and we estimate it to be highly cost-effective.”
There have been fears that decades of progress towards ending Malaria had stalled, with some countries seeing significant resurgences in recent years. In 2019, 409,000 people died from the mosquito-borne parasite disease, most of them in Africa. More than 270,000 of the victims were children under five.