WHO thumbs-up budget-friendly, high-impact malaria jab

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) granted authorization for a second malaria vaccine, marking a significant step that may provide countries with an alternative to the initial malaria vaccine.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN health agency’s approval was based on recommendations from two expert groups, advocating for its deployment among children at risk of contracting malaria.

Dr Tedros said, “As a malaria researcher, I used to dream of the day we would have a safe and effective vaccine against malaria. Now we have two.”

The new three-dose vaccine was developed in collaboration between Oxford University and the Serum Institute of India. Research findings indicate an efficacy rate exceeding 75 percent, with sustained protection for at least an additional year through a booster dose.

Dr Tedros estimated the cost of the vaccine at approximately $2 to $4 per dose, with the potential for availability in select countries next year pending financing.

Read Also: Kenya targets children above six months for anti-malaria jabs

Ghana, Burkina Faso approve vaccine use

Earlier this year, regulatory authorities in Ghana and Burkina Faso had already given their approvals for the vaccine’s use. It is important to note, however, that while this vaccine represents a valuable addition to malaria prevention efforts, it is not intended to replace existing interventions such as bed nets and insecticide spraying.

John Johnson of Doctors Without Borders underscored this point, saying, “This is one more tool we will now have, but it’s not going to replace bed nets and spraying insecticides.”

The R21 vaccine becomes the second malaria vaccine endorsed by the WHO, following the recommendation for the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine in 2021. Extensive research has confirmed the safety and efficacy of both vaccines in protecting children from malaria, and their widespread adoption is anticipated to yield substantial public health benefits.

Malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, imposes a significant health burden on children in the African Region, where nearly half a million children succumb to the illness annually.

Despite ongoing efforts to combat malaria, the disease remains a persistent public health challenge in Kenya, with nearly 6.7 million cases reported annually. Overall, malaria poses threat to approximately 70 percent of Kenya’s population.

Tragically, the disease claims the lives of about 4,000 individuals each year, with a significant proportion being children.

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