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WHO recommends world’s second Malaria vaccine

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: ANA Archive

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: ANA Archive

Published Oct 3, 2023


Hailed a major step in the prevention of malaria in children, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended a new vaccine on Monday.

The submission of the R21/Matrix-M means there were now two malaria vaccines following the RTS,S vaccine that received a recommendation in 2021.

According to health organisation, this would assist to meet the high demand from malaria-endemic regions of the world and complement the range of existing malaria tools.

In the African region, nearly half a million children die from the disease each year.

The organisation said recommendation followed advice from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group (MPAG) who presented evidence on the R21 malaria vaccine.

This was then endorsed by the health organisations director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus following a regular biannual meeting held last month.

Evidence from an ongoing clinical trial and other studies showed R21 was high efficacy when given just before the high transmission season, good efficacy when given in an age-based schedule, safety and cost effectiveness.

Ghebreyesus said as a malaria researcher he used to dream of the day there would be a safe and effective vaccine against malaria.

“Now we have two. Demand for the RTS,S vaccine far exceeds supply, so this second vaccine is a vital additional tool to protect more children faster, and to bring us closer to our vision of a malaria-free future,” he said.

According to WHO’s regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti a second vaccine held real potential to close the huge demand-and-supply gap.

“Delivered to scale and rolled out widely, the two vaccines can help bolster malaria prevention and control efforts and save hundreds of thousands of young lives in Africa from this deadly disease.”

The next steps for R21 vaccine include completing the ongoing WHO pre-qualification which would enable international procurement of the vaccine for broader rollout.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance welcomed the announcement with its CEO saying this was a major step towards our goal of creating a malaria-free life for every child.

Cape Times