The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it recommends widespread use of a new malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission after three countries tried it.
"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 Tedros Ghebreyesus at a press webinar.
“This long-awaited malaria vaccine is a breakthrough for science, child health, and malaria control. Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” Tedros said.
He said the world has made “incredible progress” in the fight against malaria in the past two decades and that malaria deaths had fallen by more than half since 2000.
The recommendation is to use the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa based on results from an ongoing pilot program in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.
Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually, the WHO said.
In recent years, WHO and its partners have reported stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.
"For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
"We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine, and now for the first time, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use," she said.