The World Health Organization (WHO) today recommended the extension of the use of a vaccine against malaria used in three African countries participating in a pilot project considered safe, despite its relatively low efficacy.
the vaccine RTS,S was developed by a platform of African scientists and is designed to fight the disease that causes 94% of their deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of young lives. We have made incredible progress in the last two decades, malaria cases have halved, but globally the cases remain too high, with 200 million cases annually and more than 400,000 deaths,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus , quoted by news agency Efe.
Ghana, Malawi and Kenya they were the first three countries to introduce the vaccine, in 2019, having administered 2.3 million vaccines and 800,000 children received at least one dose.
“It is the best possible investment ever made in public health,” said the director of the WHO Global Program Against Malaria, Pedro Alonso.
The approval of the use of the vaccine will allow it to be incorporated into the set of existing tools for the control of malaria, such as nets treated with insecticides, prophylactic drugs, diagnosis and treatment, not replacing them, however.
This pilot project in the three African countries confirmed the viability of administer the four doses needed for this vaccine, your role in reduction of infant mortality and the possibility of being integrated into national vaccination programs without major complications.
As reported by Efe, which cites a press conference held today, the project also demonstrated that the availability of the vaccine did not lead families in endemic areas to neglect the use of mosquito nets or that it had a negative impact on the coverage of other vaccines.
Research has shown that this vaccine can reduce the number of cases of severe malaria by 30% that can lead to death.
The expansion of the RTS,S vaccine will require new investments, and the current approval by the WHO will allow the Gavi platform to add the vaccine to its portfolio and consider investing in this product for the poorest countries.
The world report on malaria revealed that in 2019 there were 229 million episodes of malaria and 400,000 deaths from this disease.
More than 90% of these deaths occur in Africa and the majority – more than 265,000 – in young children.
RTS,S is the first and only vaccine that demonstrated to reduce malaria in children, including life-threatening severe malaria, related hospital admissions and the need for blood transfusions.
The RBM Partnership to End Malaria today welcomed the WHO decision, calling it the “historic recommendation”.
“WHO’s announcement is a milestone for the global malaria community, and the RBM Partnership commends the commitment and efforts of many partners over three decades to reach this milestone in innovation,” said the organization’s executive board chair , Abdourahmane Diallo, quoted in a statement posted on his website.
The organization noted that in the last two decades, with increased funding, political commitment and the development of “innovative instruments”, the global burden of malaria has been “drastically reduced, preventing 1.5 million cases and saving 7.6 millions of lives”.
Malaria, which is transmitted by a mosquito, can be contracted several times throughout life, and it can also compromise the development and future life of children when contracted at an early age.