April 23 was a momentous day for children in Africa. They received the world’s first malaria vaccine—the culmination of a 30-year effort.
The RTS,S malaria vaccine is the first to protect against a human parasite. It was made available to children in some areas of Malawi as part of their routine immunization visits last week. Ghana is expected to introduce the vaccine this week. Kenya will introduce the vaccine in the coming months.
Globally, malaria takes the lives of about 435,000 people every year, mostly children under five in sub-Saharan Africa. Progress has been made against malaria with approaches like bednets, anti-malarial medications and indoor residual spraying, but there has been a recent upsurge in malaria cases.
According to Dr Michael Kayange, Program Manager for the National Malaria Control Program in Malawi, “It’s unacceptable that some 70 children and adults die every week in Malawi because of malaria. I am glad we have another tool to help save the souls we lose each year.”
The new malaria vaccine prevents 4 in 10 cases of clinical malaria and 3 in 10 cases of severe, life-threatening malaria. The vaccine requires four doses and is meant to be used with the full malaria prevention and case management package recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
We congratulate our long-time partner, PATH, for the pivotal role the people there played in the development and introduction of this vaccine. We are honored to have joined them on this journey, working closely with them in communications, from the day they signed the agreement with GSK to develop the vaccine to the day they stood side-by-side with the Malawi Ministry of Health and WHO to bring the vaccine to children.