The world’s first malaria vaccine has been approved for distribution by the World Health Organization.
Malaria is the oldest known infectious disease, which is responsible for killing about half a million people each year, mostly children.
“From a scientific perspective, this is a massive breakthrough,” said Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s global malaria program. “From a public health perspective this is a historical feat.”
Ashley Birkett, leader of malaria programs at a nonprofit global health organization called PATH, said the vaccine has “potential for very, very significant impact.”
“Progress against malaria has really stalled over the last five or six years, particularly in some of the hardest hit countries in the world,” she said.
A vaccine for malaria has been in the works for about 100 years, Relevant Magazine reported. The disease is difficult to treat because it rapidly evolves and morphs between life cycles.
A BBC report said fighting malaria is like “nailing jelly to the wall.”
Clinic trials of the newly approved malaria vaccine have an efficacy of about 50 percent against severe cases. That’s a moderate efficacy for a vaccine, but modeling programs show that the vaccine could prevent 5.4 million cases and about 23,000 deaths in children under 5 every single year.
The vaccine is called Mosquirix and requires four doses over a period of about two years.
About 800,000 children in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana have already been vaccinated.
The vaccine is expected to be used primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly a quarter million people are killed by malaria each year.
“This opens up a whole new avenue for malaria control,” said David Schellenberg of WHO’s Global Malaria Program.
Said Alonso: “What we do have right now is a vaccine that can be deployed, that is accepted, that is safe and that can have a massive impact in terms of lives saved and episodes of malaria averted.”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Karl Tapales
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.