WHO recommends malaria vaccine for widespread use among vulnerable children

Breakthrough for medical science revolutionizing the fight against malaria with a potential to save lives.

With the release of the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation for widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children living in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission on October 6, 2021, a significant milestone in the development of malaria vaccines was reached. 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. Adding that, “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

The vaccine has been in development since the mid-1980s and has advanced over the last decade thanks to a unique public-private partnership of GSK Biologicals, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and African and other research organizations, with funding support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There are more than 100 types of malaria parasite. The malaria vaccine, RTS,S, acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa. The disease is 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. Having a vaccine for this deadly disease after more than a century of trying - is among medicine's greatest accomplishments.