WHO backs malaria vaccine for Africa's children

WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL, TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: "This vaccine is a gift to the world, but its value will be felt most in Africa."

The World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended the first approved vaccine for malaria should be widely given to African children - potentially marking a major advance against a deadly disease.

"Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year."

The WHO estimates malaria killed 386,000 Africans in 2019.

2.3 million doses of the vaccine Mosquirix, developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, have been given to infants in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019, in a large-scale pilot program.

That program followed a decade of clinical trials in seven African countries.

The WHO says 94% of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people.

The preventable disease is caused by parasites transmitted to people by the bites of infected mosquitoes.

The vaccine's effectiveness at preventing severe cases of malaria in children is only around 30%, but so far it is the only approved vaccine.

Another vaccine against malaria, developed by scientists at Britain's University of Oxford, showed up to 77% efficacy in a recent study, but it is still in the trial stages.

Experts say the challenge now will be finding funding for production and distribution of the vaccine to some of the world's poorest countries.

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