World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday that the world’s first malaria vaccine for children should be widely used, calling it a breakthrough for “science, child health and malaria control”. The RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine is being recommended based on the outcomes of a trial program that began in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi in 2019.
In a press conference on malaria vaccine recommendations, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claimed that administering the vaccine in addition to existing malaria prevention tools might save tens of thousands of young lives every year.
“This is a powerful new tool, but like Covid-19 vaccines, it’s not the only tool. Vaccination against malaria does not replace or reduce the need for other measures, including bednets, or seeking care for fever,” the WHO chief said during a press conference.
Tedros said he wished for the day when the world will have an effective vaccine against this “ancient and terrible disease” when reflecting on his early work as a malaria researcher.
He went on to say, “Today is that day; a historic day.”
Malaria is spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes that have been infected. Fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms are caused by the mosquito-borne disease. Patients who do not receive quick treatment may develop serious problems and die. Children under the age of five, according to the UN health agency, are the most vulnerable to malaria.
Tedros stated that the world has made “incredible progress” in the fight against mosquito-borne disease during the last two decades, but that development has slowed to a “unacceptably high level,” with over 200 million cases and 400,000 deaths annually.
“Two-thirds of those deaths are children under five in Africa,” he stated.
Nearly half of the world’s population was at danger of the mosquito-borne disease in 2019, according to WHO estimates, with the majority of cases and deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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