The Government of Malawi has this week launched the world’s first malaria vaccine in a landmark pilot programme. The country is the first of three in Africa in which the vaccine, known as RTS,S, will be made available to children up to two years of age. The vaccine will be introduced in Ghana and Kenya in the coming weeks.
RTS,S is the first, and to date, the only vaccine that has demonstrated it can significantly reduce malaria in children. In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to prevent approximately four in 10 malaria cases, including three in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria. The pilot programme is designed to generate evidence and experience to inform World Health Organization (WHO) policy recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S malaria vaccine.
“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,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives.”