World’s first malaria vaccine set for 2018 rollout in Africa after UN health agency secures funding

Having secured the funds for the initial phase of the deployment of the world’s first malaria vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today it will be rolled out in sub-Saharan Africa and immunization campaigns will begin in 2018.

“The pilot deployment of this first-generation vaccine marks a milestone in the fight against malaria,” stated Dr. Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, adding that these pilot projects will provide valuable evidence from real-life settings to make informed decisions on whether to deploy the vaccine on a wide scale.

The vaccine, known as RTS,S, acts globally against the most deadly malaria parasite P. falciparum, very common in Africa. Based on the results from clinical trials, the new vaccine will provide partial protection against malaria in young children.

The vaccine was developed through a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from a network of African research centres.

Full funding – $15 million for the malaria vaccine pilots – for the first phase of the programme, has already been received, and an additional commitment of about $37 million from partners is expected to cover the first four years.

“WHO recognizes and commends the leadership and support of all funding agencies and partners who have made this achievement possible,” said Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of the WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.

According to WHO, the pilot programme will evaluate the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S; the impact of RTS,S on lives saved; and the safety of the vaccine in the context of routine use. In addition, it will assess the protective effect of the vaccine on children aged five to 17 months old.

WHO also stressed that because the new vaccine alone is not an absolute malaria prevention tool, it should complement the existing package of the existing malaria prevention measures and tools, including long-lasting insecticidal bed-nets, spraying inside walls of dwellings with insecticides, preventive treatment for infants and during pregnancy, prompt diagnostic testing, and treatment of confirmed cases with effective anti-malarial medicines.

“These pilots are critical to determine whether this vaccine can be rolled out more broadly, adding an important new tool to the proven interventions we already have in the fight against malaria. The Global Fund’s commitment marks the beginning of a historic partnership between Gavi, the Global Fund and UNITAID, bringing together three of the world’s biggest health financing institutions to tackle one of the leading killers of children,” stated Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. – UN 

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