The World Health Organisation has described malaria vaccine developed in Africa and by African scientists, recommended for children in sub-Saharan Africa, as “historic”.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said this at a news conference on Wednesday at the UN headquarters in New York.
Dujarric said WHO had announced that it is recommending widespread use of a malaria vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions.
He said: “The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.”
The UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria reports that the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, had announced the development at a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
Ghebreyesus said the vaccine was a powerful new tool, but like COVID-19 vaccines, it is not the only tool.
According to him, vaccination against malaria does not replace or reduce the need for other measures, including bed nets, or seeking care for fever.
He said: “Of course, the key to any public health endeavour of this size and scope is partnership.
“I thank the children, families and communities who have participated in this historic pilot programme.
“I thank the Ministries of Health of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi for their leadership in embarking on these pilot programmes, which have continued despite COVID-19.”
The WHO chief, therefore, thanked the researchers in Africa who generated the data and insights that informed this decision, saying: “This is a vaccine developed in Africa, by African scientists, and we’re very proud.”
He also thanked GlaxoSmithKline and many research partners for creating the vaccine, and PATH for bringing it from discovery through development, with support from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
He said: “I thank Gavi, the Global Fund and Unitaid, who funded the pilot programmes and the evaluations.
“Malaria has been with us for millennia, and the dream of a malaria vaccine has been a long-held but unattainable dream.
“Today, the RTS,S malaria vaccine – more than 30 years in the making – changes the course of public health history.
“We still have a very long road to travel. But this is a long stride down that road.”
In addition, the DG said the vaccine was gift to the world, but its value would be felt most in Africa because that’s where the burden of malaria is greatest.
The malaria parasite is mostly transmitted by infective mosquitoes and carried in the blood after being bitten.
It is not contagious person-to-person and symptoms include a fever of flu-like illness, nausea and vomiting, and if left untreated, it can be fatal, killing more than 400,000 each year worldwide.
Since 2000, deaths have fallen by more than half and the disease has been eliminated in many parts of the world.