After three decades of research, the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the inclusion of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) vaccine to the current toolbox of interventions to fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.
This is the first-ever malaria vaccine that provides partial protection against the disease in children under five years old. Developed by GSK, the vaccine has been part of a large-scale pilot programme coordinated by WHO in the past couple of years in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
Studies confirmed a significant reduction (30%) in deadly severe malaria in these three countries. The vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age. Approximately 2.3 million doses have been administrated so far, according to the organisation.
The development of a safe and effective vaccine for children is the latest milestone in the malaria fight and proves that investment in research and innovation can save lives. Although this constitutes another important step towards a malaria-free world, we must remember that no single tool used alone is a silver bullet. The vaccine is a complementary prevention tool for children under 5. Continuous investment in the development and scaling up of new malaria interventions, such as gene drive, will be needed to reach zero malaria. Until we eradicate the disease, we will need constant innovation to stay one step ahead of evolution.
Access the full WHO statement here.