Malaria jab trial “could save tens of thousands of lives”

The world’s first malaria vaccine is to be trialled on children in three African countries: Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, the jab provides protection from the most deadly form of the disease.

Around 430,000 people died of malaria in 2015, the majority of them youngsters in Africa.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The UN health agency says that the vaccine could help save tens of thousands of lives in Africa, which bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide.

The jab is to be given to children aged five to 17 months in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, beginning in mid-2018.

These three countries were chosen because they continue to see high rates of infection despite their well-functioning anti-malaria programmes.

The injectable vaccine, known as RTS,S, was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria, caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite.

Although the vaccine is the only malaria drug to have successfully completed a series of clinical trials, it still needs to be injected four times before it is fully effective.

How feasible that is will be one of the things that is tested before the vaccine is made available more widely, through routine national immunization programmes.

Here’s WHO’s Mary Hamel speaking from Nairobi Kenya:

“We’ll use these pilots to understand better how to reach children with these four doses of this vaccine and in the real-life setting see how the vaccine can really impact severe malaria and mortality.”

The near US $ 50 million cost of the first phase of this pilot programme is being met by a range of WHO partners including GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID.

Source: United Nations Radio