WHO approves first malaria vaccine after trials in Africa

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The World Health Organization approved the first malaria vaccine on Wednesday after years of testing in three African countries, aiming to save the lives of thousands of children on the continent each year.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus called the endorsement by two expert advisory groups of the UN health agency “a historic moment.”

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.

The decision followed a review of a pilot programme deployed since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi where more than two million doses were given of the vaccine, first made by the pharmaceutical company GSK in 1987.

After reviewing evidence from those countries, WHO said it was “recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine”, the agency’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The WHO said in a statement it was recommending the widespread application of the vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.

Today, the RTS,S malaria vaccine — more than 30 years in the making — changes the course of public health history, one of the tweets read. “We still have a very long road to travel. But this is a long stride down that road,” a follow-up post continued.

By Wanjiru Mbaru

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