World’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S Launched in Three Countries

Health news

TALKING
POINTS: Felicitas Zawaira, Director of Family and Reproductive Health in the
WHO African region.

Today is a day to celebrate: the world’s
first malaria vaccine
has started to roll out in the first of three
countries in Africa in a vaccine pilot programme – first in Malawi, then in
Ghana, and soon in Kenya.

  • This breakthrough in malaria control caps a 30-year effort to develop a vaccine with proven results to prevent malaria in young children.
    • It represents a dream come true for so many: scientists, public health experts and leaders, health care workers, community advocates, public and private partners, and the people and families who have suffered from this disease.
    • The pilot will help us learn more about the potential of this tool to change the trajectory of malaria – a disease that has held much of Africa in its grips for ages.

कीमोथेरेपी के दुष्प्रभाव को कम कर सकता है नया जैल

First, let me give you an idea of what this new tool for child health and malaria control could mean to Africans – malaria is one of the oldest documented, most devasting maladies in our history, and we bear the brunt of its toll on the world.

  • The disease saps our productivity, prosperity and potential – it keeps people in poverty, and drives families into poverty.
    • In Malawi (where the first malaria vaccines are being given today): malaria remains a public health threat with the whole population at risk.
      • Malaria accounts for nearly one-third of outpatient hospital visits and 40% of inpatient hospital care.
    • Across Africa, more than 250000 children die from the disease each year, and children under age 5 are at greatest risk of death.
    • Sadly, most of us have a loved one or know a friend who has lost a precious child to this disease.

I want to congratulate the ministries of health
of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, who have committed to the initial use of this new
tool and what it could mean to the health of their children.

  • The vaccine pilot will
    reach about 360 000 children per year across the 3 countries.

    • The vaccine will be
      given to young children in 4 doses, starting at 5 and 6 months of age, and up
      to 2 years of age.
    • Countries have selected
      vaccination areas where malaria is a high burden and young children are at
      highest risk of dying from the disease – this is where the vaccine can have the
      greatest impact.
    • The 3 pilot countries
      were selected from among other interested countries in Africa in part because
      of their well-functioning malaria control and immunization programmes.

The pilot would not be possible without a
strong global and African health partnership behind it, and a trio of 3 key
global health funders.

  • The ministries of
    health that are leading the pilot introductions of the malaria vaccine for the
    benefit of their people and the benefit of children across Africa.

    • Teams at WHO
      headquarters, the African region and county offices support the country-led
      vaccine introductions and will coordinate the evaluation of the vaccine as it
      is given in childhood vaccination.

      • What we learn from the
        pilot will inform its broader use.
    • The vaccine was
      developed by GSK, including through a collaboration with PATH and a network of
      African research centres.
    • GSK has donated up to
      10 million doses of RTS,S for use in the pilots.
    • Financing for the pilot
      was mobilized through an unprecedented collaboration of Gavi, the Vaccine
      Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid.

Looking forward, on behalf of WHO’s African
region, I welcome the pilot and its promise to improve child health.

  • We urge all to do their part
    because “zero malaria starts with you!” – whether that means renewed
    investments in new solutions or making sure that children and families take the
    right actions to protect themselves from malaria.

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