W.H.O. Endorses World’s First Malaria Vaccine for Children

In what it called a “historic” move, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it recommends the world’s first malaria vaccine to combat the most deadly form of malaria among children.

Malaria is one of the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases, killing about 500,000 people each year — about half of which are children in Africa. On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the World Health Organization endorsed a vaccine that is the first to show signs of helping to prevent the disease. It is estimated to save tens of thousands of children each year.

To have a malaria vaccine that is safe, moderately effective and ready for distribution is “a historic event,” said Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the W.H.O.’s global malaria program.

The vaccine, called Mosquirix, is not just for malaria. It is the first-ever vaccine developed for any parasitic disease. Parasites are especially complex and the journey to develop a malaria vaccine has been underway for a century. “It’s a huge jump from the science perspective to have a first-generation vaccine against a human parasite,” Dr. Alonso said.

Throughout the clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50 percent against severe malaria in the first year. A study predicts that if the vaccine were rolled out to countries with the highest incidence of malaria, it could prevent approximately 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children younger than 5 each year.

Image source: The New York Times