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Over 1m African children vaccinated against malaria – WHO

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WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) says at least one million children in Africa have received one or more doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave the figure in a media briefing during activities marking World Malaria Day, yesterday

Children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi were captured in the pilot programme coordinated by WHO, the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

According to him, the malaria vaccine pilots, first launched by the government of Malawi in April 2019, have shown that the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) vaccine is safe and feasible to deliver, and that it substantially reduces deadly severe malaria.

“As a malaria researcher in my early career, I dreamed of the day we would have an effective vaccine against this devastating disease. This vaccine is not just a scientific breakthrough, it’s life-changing for families across Africa. It demonstrates the power of science and innovation for health. Even so, there is an urgent need to develop more and better tools to save lives and drive progress towards a malaria-free world,” he said.

Speaking further, Ghebreyesus said these findings paved the way for its historic recommendation of October 2021 for the expanded use of RTS,S among children living in settings with moderate to high malaria transmission, adding that  if widely deployed, the vaccine could save the lives of an additional 40,000 to 80,000 African children each year after $155 million has been secured from Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance to support the introduction, procurement, and delivery of the malaria vaccine for Gavi-eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Confirming that BioNTech, manufacturer of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, aims to develop a malaria vaccine using mRNA technology, Ghebreyesus said WHO was assisting countries as they consider whether and how to adopt RTS,S as an additional tool to reduce child illness and deaths from malaria.

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