D.he World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the widespread use of a vaccine against malaria for the first time. The vaccine RTS, S should be administered to children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other malaria regions, the UN agency in Geneva said on Wednesday. “This is a historic moment,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Together with previous preventive measures, tens of thousands of young lives could now be saved every year, he said.
The recommendation is based on pilot tests with around 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. According to the WHO, fatal disease courses among young people vaccinated have decreased by 30 percent. The vaccine is safe, stressed Tedros.
Transmitted by mosquitoes
Every year there are around 200 million malaria infections, mostly in Africa. Many people get infected several times a year. 400,000 people die as a result each year, mostly children under five. 94 percent of malaria deaths are recorded in African countries.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Infected people often develop a fever and chills and suffer from nausea, muscle and joint pain and fatigue. If the course is severe, there are also shortness of breath, cramps and bleeding, and most severely affected people die without medical treatment. The vaccine works against the deadliest of several malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum.
About 20 years ago, protection against mosquito bites in malaria areas was intensified, among other things by using mosquito nets for the night that were treated with insecticides. This reduced the number of infections. For a few years, however, they have stagnated. The pilot tests with the vaccine have been running in Africa since 2019.
The vaccine was developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The company was supported by the malaria vaccine initiative of the non-profit organization PATH, which also receives money from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.