World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of the RTS, S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions.
WHO, in a statement it issued yesterday, said the recommendation was based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.
WHO director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, described the development as a historic moment.
He 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.”
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.”
According to the statement, 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, adding that the 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.
On the key findings of the vaccine pilots, the organisation said the findings 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.
It said the next steps for the 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.
On financing for the pilot programme, it said it has been mobilised 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.