World's First Malaria-Vaccine Program for Children Started in Africa

According to the UNICEF data, nearly every minute, a child under 5 dies of malaria. Many of these deaths are preventable and treatable. In 2022, there were 249 million malaria cases globally that led to 608,000 deaths in total. Of these deaths, 76 per cent were children under 5 years of age.

In Africa, there are about 250 million cases of the parasitic disease each year, including 600,000 deaths, mostly in young children.

Cameroon, a Central African nation that experiences 2.7 million cases of the disease each year, will begin rolling out the world's first routine childhood-malaria immunizations using a vaccine called RTS,S, or Mosquirix. The vaccine targets sporozoites, the transmissible forms of the malaria parasite, and neutralizes them before they can enter the liver and multiply in their thousands.

Cameroon hopes to vaccinate about 250,000 children this year and next year.

The vaccine was approved by the World Health Organisation two years ago.

The WHO have acknowledged the vaccine's limits but says it will still dramatically reduce severe infections and hospitalisations.

The vaccine is only about 30% effective, requires four doses and protection begins to fade after several months.

Professor Sir Brian Greenwood from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has played a pivotal role in malaria vaccination trials and research since the inception of RTS,S.

It is said that Sir Greenwood had once resigned himself to the possibility that a successful malaria vaccine might not become available in his lifetime. Now, at 86 years old, the resulted vaccine of his decades long research will be used for world's first routine childhood-malaria immunizations.

"It's been a long journey, with many ups and downs," says Sir Greenwood. "The first attempts to develop a malaria vaccine through studies in birds were done over 100 years ago."

RTS,S is, to date, the only malaria vaccine to be recommended and prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This pediatric vaccine acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa. The vaccine reduces the number of times a child gets malaria, including severe, life-threatening malaria, and it reduces child deaths.

Top Image – Youtube.com/GHTC

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