The first malaria vaccine will be given to 360,000 children in Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya, in a large scale pilot directed at boosting the anti-malaria initiatives in these regions.
These three countries were chosen because of their current initiatives to eliminate the disease, with current preventative measures like mosquito nets, yet have low elimination success rates.
Malaria is one of the world’s top killers, where more than 250,000 children in Africa die from the mosquito-transmitted disease every year.
Malawi is the first country to pilot the vaccination, aiming to administer 120,000 of these vaccines to children under the age of two.
In clinical trials, the vaccine, RTS,S, prevented 40 percent of cases, which, in comparison to other vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, is low, but a step in the right direction to combat malaria.
It has taken thirty years to develop a vaccine that is semi-effective against the disease, which is not a virus, but a parasite, meaning it can be contracted more than once, in comparison to other diseases, like measles, which once contracted, can never be received again.
Over the past ten years, malaria cases have declined; however, elimination efforts in poorer areas in the world, that are also most impacted, are not able to afford many preventative measures.
Progress has stalled in fighting the disease due to a lack of funding, increase of mosquitoes due to climate change, and a built-up resistance to artemisinin, a current drug used against malaria.
This new vaccine needs to be administered four times in total, once a month for three months and then another in 18 months.
The trial stage in these countries is expected to be completed by 2023.