WHO backs malaria vaccine rollout for Africa’s children in major breakthrough

 

NAIROBI, Oct 6 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday the only approved vaccine against malaria should be widely given to African children, potentially marking a major advance against a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people annually.

The WHO recommendation is for RTS,S – or Mosquirix – a vaccine developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L).

Since 2019, 2.3 million doses of Mosquirix have been administered to infants in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in a large-scale pilot programme coordinated by the WHO. The majority of those whom the disease kills are under age five.

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

“This is a vaccine developed in Africa by African scientists and we’re very proud,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” he added, referring to anti-malaria measures like bed nets and spraying to kill mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

One of the ingredients in the Mosquirix vaccine is sourced from a rare evergreen native to Chile called a Quillay tree. Reuters reported on Wednesday that the long-term supply of these trees is in question.

Malaria is far more deadly than COVID-19 in Africa. It killed 386,000 Africans in 2019, according to a WHO estimate, compared with 212,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the past 18 months.