The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine, the world’s first malaria vaccine to be given to children across Africa.
The decision followed a review of a pilot programme deployed since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in which more than two million doses were given of the vaccine, first made by the pharmaceutical company GSK in 1987.
The agency’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the evidence from those countries, the WHO said it was “recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine.
“Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent, which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease. And we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults,” he said.
WHO said its decision was based largely on results from ongoing research in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that tracked more than 800,000 children who have received the vaccine since 2019.
The malaria vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline in 1987. While it’s the first to be authorized, it does have challenges: the vaccine is only about 30 percent effective, requires up to four doses and its protection fades after several months and the side effects were rare, sometimes includes a fever that could result in temporary convulsions.
According to 2019 WHO figures more than half of malaria deaths worldwide are in six sub-Saharan African countries and almost a quarter were in Nigeria alone.