Home HEALTH WHO approves world’s first malaria vaccine : Report 7 Oct 2021

WHO approves world’s first malaria vaccine : Report 7 Oct 2021

WHO approves world’s first malaria vaccine : Report 7 Oct 2021

WHO approves world’s first malaria vaccine

“Today, WHO is recommending the widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine,” said agency director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

GENEVA, Switzerland: The World Health Organization on Wednesday endorsed the RTS, S/AS01 malaria vaccine, the first against the mosquito-borne disease that kills more than 400,000 people a year, mostly African children.
The decision was taken after reviewing a pilot program deployed in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019, delivering more than two million doses of the vaccine, which was first made in 1987 by pharmaceutical company GSK.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director general, said that after reviewing the evidence from those countries, the WHO said it was “recommending the widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine”.

The WHO said it is advising children with moderate to high malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions to take four doses by the age of two.

The agency said a child dies of malaria every two minutes.

According to 2019 WHO figures, more than half of malaria deaths worldwide are in six sub-Saharan African countries and almost a quarter are in Nigeria alone.

Symptoms include fever, headache and muscle aches, then chills, fever, and sweating.

Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, said the vaccine pilot’s findings showed it “reduces severe malaria by 30 percent, which is the fatal form.”

The vaccine is “deliverable,” she said, and “it is reaching even the unreachable … Two-thirds of children in countries who do not sleep under bed nets are now benefiting from the vaccine.”

Several vaccines exist against viruses and bacteria but this was the first time the WHO recommended a vaccine for widespread use against human parasites.

The vaccine works against Plasmodium falciparum – one of the five species of malaria parasite and the deadliest.

WHO approves world's first malaria vaccine
WHO approves world’s first malaria vaccine

“From a scientific point of view, this is a great breakthrough,” said Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Program.

‘Ray of Hope’

Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said Wednesday’s recommendation “offers a ray of hope for the continent that is burdened with the disease the most.”

At a news conference after the announcement, Alonso said the estimated cost of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is more than $12 billion annually.

Before the newly recommended vaccine reaches children in need, the next step will be funding.

“This will be the next big step … Then we will be prepared to increase the dose and make decisions about where the vaccine will be most useful and how it will be deployed,” O’Brien said.

The Gavi Vaccine Alliance said in a statement following the WHO announcement that “global stakeholders, including Gavi, will consider whether to fund a new malaria vaccination program for countries in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The fight against malaria got a boost in April when researchers at Britain’s Oxford University announced that their Matrix-M vaccine candidate had become the first to surpass the WHO’s threshold of 75 per cent efficacy.

Germany’s BioNTech, which developed a coronavirus vaccine with US giant Pfizer, also said it aims to start trials for a malaria vaccine next year using the same breakthrough mRNA technology.

The WHO also hopes that this latest recommendation will encourage scientists to develop more malaria vaccines.

RTS, S/AS01 “is the first generation, really important,” Alonso said, “but we hope … it stimulates the field to meet or go beyond other types of vaccines.”

WHO approves world’s first malaria vaccine

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by News East India staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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