The World Health Organization (WHO) is commending widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission. The recommendation is based on outcomes from an ongoing pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a revolution for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
This is not only the first authorized malaria vaccine, it’s also the first vaccine ever approved for use against a parasitic disease in humans.
RTS,S won governing approval from the European Medicines Agency back in 2015 but WHO wanted to wait for the results of this latest pilot program before recommending it for use in countries with moderate to high levels of malaria transmission. The anticipation is that it will be used primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, where the mosquito-borne disease is one of the top killers of children, claiming nearly a quarter of a million lives each year.
Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood sickness and death in most part of the countries. Now for the first time ever, we have a vaccine for malaria recommended for widespread use.