By Salim Yunusa
Amid the ongoing battle against Covid-19, the World Health Organization has approved the first ever vaccine against another deadly disease – Malaria. The WHO believes the jab could be used to save tens of thousands of lives.
“The World Health Organization is recommending widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa,” the UN-backed health watchdog said in a press release on Wednesday.
“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 Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Combined with other anti-malarial medicines, it can also reportedly reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
Also known as Mosquirix, the jab was developed by a UK pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Over 800,000 children in African countries of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi were immunized with it as part of a pilot program that was launched in 2019.
The vaccine demonstrated only limited efficacy during the four-year clinical trials in children since it prevented only 39 percent of malaria cases and protected another 29 percent of kids against severe cases of malaria, according to the Guardian.
Still, it is not just the first anti-malarial jab that showed some promising results but the first ever vaccine that turned out to be effective against a certain type of a parasite since malaria is caused by parasites and not bacteria or viruses. It particularly helps immune system to combat Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria parasitic pathogens, the New York Times reported.
According to the WHO data, more than 260,000 African children under the age of five still die from malaria every year.