Over 1.7 million doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine have been administered in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, benefitting more than 650,000 children with additional malaria protection.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement Tuesday that the number of children reached indicates strong community demand for the vaccine.
“Ghana, Kenya and Malawi show that existing childhood vaccination platforms can effectively deliver the malaria vaccine to children, some of whom have not been able to access an insecticide treated bed net or other malaria prevention measures,” said Dr. Katherine O’Brien, WHO Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.
“This vaccine may be key to making malaria prevention more equitable and to saving more lives,” O’Brien added.
RTS,S is the first and only vaccine that has been shown to reduce malaria in children, including life-threatening severe malaria, related hospital admissions and the need for blood transfusions, according to the WHO.
“In some ways, malaria is the child health emergency of a lifetime – or many lifetimes – in Africa. We applaud the work of participating countries that has resulted in malaria vaccine pilots with strong vaccination coverage that will add to our understanding of the RTS,S vaccine’s potential to improve child health and strengthen malaria control – and, potentially, reverse trends,” said Dr. Akpaka Kalu, Team Leader for Tropical and Vector-borne Diseases in the WHO African Region.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.
It is an acute febrile illness. In a non-immune individual, symptoms usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite.
Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO.