WHO recommends widespread use of world's first malaria vaccine for children
By Jacqueline Howard, CNN
(CNN) -- In what it called a "historic" move, the World Health Organization said Wednesday it has recommended widespread use of the world's first and only malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions where there are moderate to high levels of malaria transmission.
The recommendation was based on results from an ongoing pilot program of vaccinations in child health clinics across Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, according to WHO.
The program, launched in 2019, demonstrated that the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine is safe, cost-effective, feasible to deliver and significantly reduced deadly severe malaria by about 30%, WHO said in a news release.
"This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the news release. "Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year."
Malaria is among the primary causes of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually, according to WHO.
"For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering," Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa, said in Wednesday's news release.
"We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now, for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use," Moeti said. "Today's recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults."
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