Malaria Vaccine Pilot Program for 3 African Nations

Africa bears the greatest burden of  malaria worldwide.Africa bears the greatest burden of  malaria worldwide.

The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will take part in a WHO-coordinated pilot implementation program that will make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018.

The injectable vaccine, ‘RTS, S’ was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. The vaccine will be assessed in the pilot program as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, the WHO website reported.

 “The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa,” she added.

Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62% reduction in malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015, yet approximately 429,000 people died of the disease in 2015, the majority of them young children in Africa.

The WHO pilot program will assess whether the vaccine’s protective effect in children aged 5-17 months old during Phase III testing can be replicated in real-life. Specifically, the program will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths, and its safety in the context of routine use. RTS, S was developed by GSK and is the first malaria vaccine to have successfully completed a Phase III clinical trial, conducted between 2009 and 2014 through a partnership involving GSK, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and a network of African research sites in seven African countries—including Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

RTS, S is also the first malaria vaccine to have obtained a positive scientific opinion from a stringent medicines regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which  approved it in July 2015.

The malaria vaccine will be administered via intramuscular injection and delivered through the routine national immunization programs. 

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