Mumbai, April 24: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced the launch of the world’s first malaria vaccine, aimed for children under the age of 2 in the African continent. The roll-out comes in time for World Malaria Day which is marked on April 25 of each year.
The WHO announced that close to three and half lakh children in three African countries will receive the world's first malaria vaccine as part of a large-scale pilot project. Malawi, Ghana and Kenya will begin giving malaria vaccines to children in the coming weeks.
The vaccine promises protection from the malaria parasite which is transmitted through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Clinical trials found that the vaccine prevented approximately four in 10 malaria cases in children, according to the WHO. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press statement, "The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children's lives."
The vaccine, RTS,S, also known as Mosquirix, was created by the British pharmaceutical firm GSK in 1987. After decades of improving it, the vaccine has been able to achieve an efficacy rate of 40% for children under the age of 5. With this vaccine, the WHO hopes to prevent the over four lakh malaria deaths that take the lives of children across the world each year.
"We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas. We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added.
The vaccine is to be administered in four doses: three doses between five and nine months of age and the fourth dose provided around the 2nd birthday. The WHO said the vaccine was a "complementary malaria control tool" to be used in addition to bed nets treated with insecticide, spraying indoor areas with insecticides as well as prompt diagnosis and treatment of the disease. The WHO said that the vaccine was needed as recent data suggests that malaria is making a comeback, with 219 million cases in 2017, compared with 217 million in 2016.