Malawi, an African country, on Tuesday launched world's first and only malaria vaccine in a landmark pilot programme. The vaccine known as RTS,S, will be made available to children up to 2 years of age against one of the world's leading killers.
It is to be noted that Malawi is the first of three in Africa in which the vaccine is available. Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine soon.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), RTS,S is the first and to date the only vaccine that has demonstrated it can significantly reduce malaria in children. In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to prevent about four in ten malaria cases, including three in ten cases of life-threatening severe malaria.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas. We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there.” “The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives,” he added.
While celebrating the launch of the vaccine, the WHO also reminds that it's a complementary malaria control tool added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, including the routine use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and the timely use of malaria testing and treatment.
An outcome of public-private partnership under the WHO's coordination, the pilot vaccine program is designed to generate evidence and experience to inform WHO policy recommendations on the broader use of the vaccine.
It will look at reductions in child deaths; vaccine uptake, including whether parents bring their children on time for the four required doses and vaccine safety in the context of routine use.
As per the statistics of WHO, Malaria remains one of the world's leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes. Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 250,000 children die from the disease every year.
Children under five are at greatest risk of its life-threatening complications. Worldwide, malaria kills 4,35,000 people a year, most of them children.