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The World Health Organization on Wednesday endorsed the first ever malaria vaccine for children in Africa. Saying, this was a first step in a process that should lead to wide distribution in poor countries.
Malaria has been one of the biggest scourges on humanity for and mostly kills babies and infants.
After the success of pilot immunisation programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, the World Health Organization says 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”.
The new vaccine, called Mosquirix, helps the immune system fight off a malaria pathogen common in Africa. It not only is the first vaccine to prevent malaria, but the first to prevent a parasitic disease.
WHO endorsed the vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with malaria. The disease kills around half a million people each year, mostly in Africa. The majority of those deaths — 260,000 — are in children under age 5.
The vaccine was 50% effective at preventing severe malaria in clinical trials during the first year of testing. That efficacy dropped down to nearly zero after four years, but the immediate impacts of the vaccine on areas struggling with malaria cases made it worthwhile.
“I do expect we will see that impact,” said Dr. Mary Hamel, the lead of WHO’s malaria vaccine implementation program, according to The New York Times.