World’s First Malaria Vaccine Launches in Malawi
Malaria is still one of the biggest killers of children worldwide, taking the lives of over 200,000 children every year. -Dr. Seth Berkley
Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) published a press release and held a press conference welcoming the rollout of a landmark pilot malaria vaccine. From the release:
WHO welcomes the Government of Malawi’s launch of the world’s first malaria vaccine today in a landmark pilot programme. The country is the first of three in Africa in which the vaccine, known as RTS,S, will be made available to children up to 2 years of age; Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks.
Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes. Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 250,000 children die from the disease every year. Children under 5 are at greatest risk of its life-threatening complications. Worldwide, malaria kills 435,000 people a year, most of them children.
Importance Of The Malaria Vaccine
During the press conference, Felicitas Zawaira, Director of Family and Reproductive Health in the WHO African region highlighted the importance of the program. She detailed how the vaccine pilot will reach about 360,000 children per year across Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.
Prior to the April 23rd event, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said the following about the vaccine pilot developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), “Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given. The poorest children suffer the most and are at highest risk of death.” Moeti would go on to explain the importance of immunization. “We know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”
WHO, PATH, and GSK are working together with the ministries of health in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi to distribute the 10 million vaccine doses, donated by GSK throughout the three countries.
How It All Came Together
Financing for the program came through a cooperative effort that included Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and Unitaid. Additionally, WHO, PATH and GSK are providing in-kind contributions.
“Delivering the world’s first malaria vaccine will help reduce the burden of one of the most pressing health challenges globally. This novel tool is the result of GSK employees collaborating with their partners, applying the latest in vaccine science to contribute to the fight against malaria,” said Dr. Thomas Breuer, Chief Medical Officer of GSK Vaccines.
CEO of Gavi, Dr. Seth Berkley would also comment on the situation. “Malaria is still one of the biggest killers of children worldwide, taking the lives of over 200,000 children every year. These pilots will be crucial to determine the part this vaccine could play in reducing the burden this disease continues to place on the world’s poorest countries.”
Delivery of the vaccine will be via 4 doses – 3 doses between 5 and 9 months of age and the fourth dose provided around the 2nd birthday.