The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised that children in Sub-Saharan Africa and other places with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission get the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine.
According to a WHO news release, the advice is based on the findings of an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that has touched over 8,00,000 children since 2019.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” he added.
Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa.More than 2,60,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.
In recent years, WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.
“For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. 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,” Dr Moeti said.
The recommendation is based on the advice of two WHO global advisory bodies, one for immunization and the other for malaria.
“WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO.RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of four doses in children from five months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden,” the release said.