The World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended the use of a malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate transmission of the disease. The RTS,S vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, has been developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, reported The Guardian.
The WHO’s recommendation is based on the results from an ongoing pilot programme in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya. The vaccine has been administered to more than 8 lakh children since the programme began in 2019.
Malaria is a disease transmitted to humans through the bites of parasite-infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease, although curable and preventable, killed more than 4.09 lakh people in 2019, according to the global health body. Children are the most vulnerable group to malaria and accounted for 67%, or 2.74 lakh, of the total deaths in 2019.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, headaches and muscle pain and sweating. In adults, multi-organ failure is also frequently reported, according to the WHO.
The global health body has recommended the administration of the vaccine in four doses to children, who are five months old.
The WHO said that the results of the 2019 pilot programme showed that the vaccine was safe and effective. It said that the vaccine reduced the spread of the vector-borne disease by 30% even in areas where insecticide-treated nets are widely used and have good access to diagnosis and treatment.
In addition, a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in August had found that when children were given both the vaccine and anti-malarial drugs, there was a 70% reduction in hospitalisations and deaths.
“Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday. “It is safe. It significantly reduces life-threatening, severe malaria, and we estimate it to be highly cost-effective.”
The global health body said that the vaccine was also effective against plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and also widely prevalent in African regions.
The WHO said that the next steps for the vaccine would now involve taking funding decisions for broader rollout of the shot.
GlaxoSmithKline said it would supply up to 15 million, or 1.5 crore, doses per year. The shot would be priced not more than 5% more than the cost of production, it said. The company added that it would work with its partners, funders and governments to support additional supply of the vaccine.
Another vaccine developed at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University had also shown positive results, the scientist working on the jab had said. In a period of 12 months, the vaccine had shown up to 77% efficacy in a trial conducted on 450 children in the African country of Burkina Faso.
Larger trials of the Jenner Institute vaccine are now starting and it involves 4,800 children from four countries.