The RTS, S/AS01 (RTS, S) malaria vaccine for African children has been approved by the World Health Organization.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director-general, stated this at a press conference on Wednesday.
A two-year immunization program including children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi led to the recommendation.
He expressed hope that the vaccine would help Africa’s malaria prevention efforts.
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.”
Malaria, according to the New York Times, is among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases. It kills about half a million people each year, nearly all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — among them 260,000 children under age 5.
The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa. The vaccine is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease.
In clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50 per cent against severe malaria in the first year but dropped close to zero by the fourth year. And the trials did not measure the vaccine’s impact on preventing deaths, which has led some experts to question whether it is a worthwhile investment in countries with countless other intractable problem.