By Stan Deresinski, MD, FACP, FIDSA

Clinical Professor of Medicine, Stanford University

SYNOPSIS: The World Health Organization has recommended the use of the first effective malaria vaccine.

SOURCE: World Health Organization. WHO recommends groundbreaking malaria vaccine for children at risk. Oct. 6, 2021. https://www.who.int/news/item/06-10-2021-who-recommends-groundbreaking-malaria-vaccine-for-children-at-risk

On Oct. 6, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) dramatically advanced the fight against malaria with the following statement recommending the use of the first vaccine with efficacy in the prevention of malaria due to Plasmodium falciparum:

“WHO recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO. RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.”

It is estimated that the vaccine, whose development was largely funded by GlaxoSmithKline and the Gates Foundation, will cost approximately $5 per dose and that approximately 100 million doses per year will be required.1

Funding for implementation of widespread vaccination programs now depends on the actions of the global health community and individual governmental decisions for incorporation into their national malaria control strategies.

Although a four-shot series provides only 30% protection, modeling studies indicate that full vaccination of all children living in high-incidence countries could prevent 23,000 deaths in a year. Furthermore, even though limited, the success of this vaccine opens the path to the development of more effective vaccines. 

REFERENCE

  1. Maxmen A. Scientists hail historic malaria vaccine approval — but point to challenges ahead. Nature 2021; Oct. 8. doi: 10.1038/d41586-021-02755-5. [Online ahead of print].