The United Nations has announced that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will take part in a breakthrough pilot programme to make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018.
Announcement of the coordinated rollout comes as the international community marks World Malaria Day on 25 April and the kick-off of World Immunization Week, 24-30 April, which celebrates the widespread use of vaccines that protect people against 26 diseases.
Overall, vaccines prevent an estimated two to three million deaths each year.
The injectable RTS,S vaccine was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium parasites. It will be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary malaria control tool to potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.
The malaria vaccine will be administered via intramuscular injection and delivered through routine national immunization programmes.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the International Drug Purchase Facility UNITAID, are partnering to provide $49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme (2017-2020), which will be complemented in-kind by contributions from WHO and the British pharmaceutical company GSK .
Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62 per cent reduction in malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015, yet approximately 429,000 people died of the disease in 2015 – the majority of them young children in Africa.