WHO To Roll Out World’s 1st Malaria Vaccine in Africa

Caroline Theuri November 21, 2016
A nurse in Tanzania administers Glaxo's experimental malaria vaccine to a child at a district hospital. Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

Increased funding has made it possible for the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS, S, to be rolled out in pilot projects in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in 2018.

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed in a press release that the first phase of the project was financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to the tune of $15 million.

Earlier this year, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the International Drug Purchasing Facility announced commitments of up to $27.5 million and $9.6 million, respectively, to cover the first four years of the vaccine program.

RTS, S, acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally, which is the most prevalent in Africa.

According to the Director of the WHO Global Malaria programme Dr. Pedro Alonso, the pilot project will be carried out in real-life settings in three African countries. Subsequently, the vaccine will be adapted in other areas on a wider scale.

“The pilot deployment of this first-generation vaccine marks a milestone in the fight against malaria,” Dr. Alonso added.

According to WHO, the pilot project will evaluate the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS, S, its impact on lives saved as well as the safety level of the vaccine for routine use.

The RTS, S vaccine will complement other malarial interventions that have lowered the spread of malaria in Africa and the world, including insecticidal bed-nets, sprays, preventive treatment for infants and during pregnancy, prompt diagnostic testing, and treatment of confirmed cases with effective anti-malarial medicines.

“Between 2000 and 2015, the rate of new malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 42 percent and malaria mortality rates fell by 66 percent. However, this region continues to account for approximately 90 percent of global malaria cases and deaths,” notes WHO.

A report published by the New England Journal of Medicine in October also notes that the mortality rates caused by malaria have decreased by 57 percent across SSA Africa, between 2000 and 2015.

According to WHO, the RTS, S vaccine was developed through a partnership among GlaxoSmithKline, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a network of African research centers.

The vaccine is the first malaria vaccine to successfully complete crucial Phase 3 testing.

A position paper by WHO in January, noted that for this phase, more than 15,000 infants and young children in seven countries in SSA were enrolled, including Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

Three of these countries will be considered for inclusion in the 2018 pilot program, notes WHO.

Names of these countries are yet to be announced.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: November 21, 2016


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