World Health Organization Approves First Malaria Vaccine

The world now has a new powerful tool in the fight against malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the widespread use of the malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) for children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high spread of the disease from Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of malaria parasites.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the occasion was “historic”; malaria vaccines have been in development since the 1960s.

“The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health, and malaria control,” said the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, in a statement. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

Malaria continues to be the main cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 African children under age 5 die from the disease annually. Plasmodium falciparum is the most life-threatening of the five different types of malaria parasites. Stanford Health Care says that patients with severe falciparum malaria may develop liver and kidney failure, convulsions, and coma.

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