More than one million children in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi have received one or extra doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine thanks to a program led by the World Health Organization.
The malaria vaccine pilots not only show that the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) vaccine is safe and feasible to deliver but that it substantially reduces deadly severe malaria, and, if widely deployed, WHO estimates that the vaccine could save the lives of an additional 40,000 to 80,000 African children each year.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the development of a safe and efficacious vaccine marked a milestone in efforts to eliminate the vector-borne disease in the continent.
“This vaccine is not just a scientific breakthrough; it is life-changing for families across Africa. It demonstrates the power of science and innovation for health,” said Ghebreyesus.
He stressed there was an urgency to develop more sophisticated preventive tools in order to revitalize the war on malaria in Africa which accounts for more than 94 percent of the global malaria burden.
The RTS,S pilot programme is made possible by an unprecedented collaboration between in-country and international partners, including Ministries of Health of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi; in-country evaluation partners; PATH, GSK, UNICEF and others; and the funding bodies of Gavi, the Global Fund and Unitaid.
The RTS,S malaria vaccine is the result of 30 years of research and development by GSK and through a partnership with PATH, with support from a network of African research centres.