Malaria vaccine will be rolled out to kids in Africa after historic jab gets WHO green light

KIDS in Africa will receive malaria vaccines after the jab was given the green light in "a historic moment" by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The ground-breaking vaccine – called RTS,S – was introduced in a pilot programme two years ago in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi and 800,000 children have been given the jab.

Today, health officials said the vaccine should be rolled out across sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said it was "a historic moment".

He said: "The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,

"[It] could save tens of thousands of young lives each year."

Malaria has been a major cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 children under the age of five die from malaria every year – most of them in Africa.

In recent years, the WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.

There are more than 100 types of malaria parasite. The RTS,S vaccine targets the one that is most deadly and most common in Africa: Plasmodium falciparum.

It is given as one dose a year for four years, starting at five months old, and carries harmless chunks of the parasite to train the immune system to fight it.

Trials showed the vaccine, which London-based GlaxoSmithKline spent 30 years making, can slash deaths by 30 per cent – or 70 per cent when used alongside anti-malaria pills.

Professor Sir Brian Greenwood from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has played a pivotal role in malaria vaccination trials and research since the inception of RTS,S.

He said: “This is a historic day for malaria. For the first time we have a vaccine that is now recommended for expanded use in areas of Africa where the disease is endemic.

“With malaria still a major cause of death, especially among children in Africa, this decision has the potential to save millions of young lives.

“The RTS,S vaccine does not provide complete protection but this decision is testament to the global health community's drive and vision to find a way forward.

“It's taken a long time to get to this momentous day but the journey has been worth it.

"It is important that long-term investment and commitment to science and global health partnerships like these continue so that the complex challenges that a disease such as malaria poses can be addressed."

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