Malawi has become the first country in the world to launch a landmark malaria vaccine in what the World Health Organization is hailing as a historic moment in the fight against the disease.
The vaccine, called RTS,S, has been in development for 30 years and is being made available as part of a pilot programme funded by three organisations: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Unitaid.
The pilot programme will also be launched in Ghana and Kenya in the coming weeks with around 360,000 children every year across the three countries receiving the vaccine.
Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes. Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 250,000 children die from the disease every year. Children under the age of five are at greatest risk of its life-threatening complications. Worldwide, malaria kills 435,000 people a year, most of them children.
In clinical trials the vaccine was shown to prevent four out of 10 cases of malaria and, because the results were not as strong as had been hoped, WHO decided to launch a pilot programme to evaluate its effectiveness.