History-Making Malaria Vaccine

The WHO recommended widespread use yesterday of a malaria vaccine among children in areas of high transmission, creating the potential to save tens of thousands of lives every year.
The first-ever recommendation for a malaria vaccine follows a pilot program of the RTS,S vaccine in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that reached 800,000+ children, according to a WHO statement.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who began his career as a malaria researcher.
Far from perfect: In trials, the vaccine reduced the risk of:

  • Contracting malaria by 40%, notes STAT
  • Being admitted to hospital for severe malaria by 30%

Also: It requires 4 doses—a logistical challenge.

  • In a tweet, Oxford researcher Max Roser noted, “It would be even better if the efficacy was higher and longer lasting, but this is a big step forward in preventing the deaths of children.”

But with 260,000 African children under 5 dying annually from malaria, the announcement was hailed as a major advance. 

  • The University of Washington’s Kerubo J. Mabuka tweeted: “I grew up in Kisii a malaria endemic region. My siblings and I suffered many malaria bouts and missed hours of school! I am lucky to be alive. This vaccine isn't perfect but lives will be saved!”

Looking forward: WHO Malaria Policy Advisory Group chair Dyann Wirth said rollout of RTS,S may lead to development of next-generation vaccines.

Related: First drug for dengue, an excruciating disease, may be on the horizon – Science

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