A landmark pilot vaccination programme has been launched in Malawi, Africa.
A vaccine known as RTS,S will be made available to children aged up to two. Malawi is the first of three African countries to roll out the vaccine and will be followed by Ghana and Kenya.
The World Health Organization said that it welcomes the Government of Malawi’s launch and highlighted the huge potential of the vaccine to save lives. “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,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “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.”
WHO said that the vaccine has been in development for the past 30 years and is the first and only vaccine that has demonstrated that it can significantly reduce malaria in children. Clinical trials found that the vaccine can prevent around one in four malaria cases.
It is hoped the vaccine will revolutionise disease prevention in Africa and beyond. “Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given. The poorest children suffer the most and are at highest risk of death,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes. This is a day to celebrate, as we begin to learn more about what this tool can do to change the trajectory of malaria through childhood vaccination.”