The World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally recommended the widespread use of malaria vaccine for children in the sub-Sahara African region and other parts of the world with high malaria transmission. According to the WHO, malaria is a “primary cause of childhood illnesses and death in sub-Saharan Africa as more than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.”

The approval by the health organization was based on an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi which has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019, according to the publication released on Wednesday.

The Director-General of the International agency, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted in the public release commenting that, “This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

Why is this important?

In recent years, WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease. The Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti stated that malaria has been a huge burden on the region, stating that the region has been in need for the vaccine for years. She said, “For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering.”

Dr Matshidiso added that “We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.”

Following the advice of two WHO global advisory bodies, the WHO concluded that the RTS,S malaria vaccine should be recommended.

The international health agency, WHO, recommends that the malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO.

RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.