Malawi together with two other African countries has been selected to test the first ever malaria vaccine.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced today that Malawi, Ghana and Kenya will take part in a WHO-coordinated pilot implemented program that will make the world’s first malaria vaccine available to 750,000 children, beginning 2018.
The injectable vaccine, RTS,S was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of Malaria caused by plasmodium falciparum and it will be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary Malaria control tool that could potentially be added to the core package of WHO recommended measures for malaria prevention.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement that the vaccine has the potential to save thousands of lives.
“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help the organisation make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine.
“Combined with existing Malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands lives in Africa,” said Moeti.
Africa bears the greatest burden of Malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to 62 percent reduction in Malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015, yet approximately 429,000 people died of the disease in 2015. The majority were young children in Africa.
The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the vaccine’s protective effects in children aged 5-17 months old during phase lll testing can be replicated in real life.
The vaccine will be given to children once a month for three months before a fourth dose 18 months later.
The pilot programme will also assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of the jab, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths and its safety in the context of routine use.
The three African countries have been selected to test the vaccine because they already run large programmes to end the disease though they still have high number of cases.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID, are partnering to provide US$49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme which will run from 2017 to 2020.