Malaria Vaccine Recommended by World Health Organization

Researchers have tried for decades to produce an effective malaria vaccine. This objective has been hard to achieve because malaria is a parasite, different than a virus or bacterium. Malaria also is intracellular, meaning that it lives inside the cells of its victims, thus evading the immune system. Nevertheless, scientists persisted, and now the World Health Organization has announced that a “breakthrough vaccine” should be used widely in developing nations to prevent malaria and improve life expectancy and quality of life.

The life cycle of malaria, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to a news release, WHO is recommending the vaccine as follows:

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission. The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.

“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260 000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.

WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO. RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.”

“WHO recommends groundbreaking malaria vaccine for children at risk” World Health Organization, October 6, 2021

Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen