The World Health Organisation has endorsed the RTS, S/AS01 (RTS, S) malaria vaccine for children in Africa.
This was made known by the director-general of the agency, Tedros Ghebreyesus, who announced it at a media briefing on Wednesday.
The recommendation followed a two-year vaccine programme that involved children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
He expressed optimism that the vaccine will improve efforts on malaria prevention in Africa.
He said, “This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control.
“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
Malaria, according to the New York Times, is among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases. It kills about half a million people each year, nearly all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — among them 260,000 children under age 5.
The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa. The vaccine is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease.
In clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50 per cent against severe malaria in the first year but dropped close to zero by the fourth year. And the trials did not measure the vaccine’s impact on preventing deaths, which has led some experts to question whether it is a worthwhile investment in countries with countless other intractable problems.