650 000 African children given malaria jab

 

More than 650 000 children in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi have received immunization for malaria.

 

The disease has claimed an estimated 411 000 lives in 2018 and 409 000 in 2019.

Over 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa, with the majority in young children.

The World Health Organization said for two years into a malaria vaccine pilot scheme, more than 650 000 children have been immunized across Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi.

 

Global advisory bodies for immunization and malaria are expected to convene in October to review data on the vaccine and consider whether to recommend using it more widely.

The RTS, S vaccine is the only existing jab shown to reduce malaria in children. It acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa.

 

Progress against malaria has been growing over the years.

 

According to WHO’s World Malaria Report in 2020, the progress against mosquito-borne disease was plateauing, particularly in African countries, which bear high rates of cases and deaths.

In November, the annual report said that after steadily tumbling from 736 000 in 2000, the disease claimed an estimated 411 000 lives in 2018 and 409 000 in 2019.

 

Meanwhile, in 2019 the global tally of malaria cases was estimated at 229 million, a figure that has been at the same level for the past four years.

The WHO said clinical testing had demonstrated that the RTS, S vaccine, when given in four doses, prevented four in 10 cases of malaria, and three in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria, over a four-year period.

 

“Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi show that existing childhood vaccination platforms can effectively deliver the malaria vaccine to children, some of whom have not been able to access an insecticide-treated bed net or other malaria prevention measures,” said Kate O’Brien, the WHO’s immunization chief.

 

O’Brien added that the vaccine might be key to making malaria prevention more equitable and saving more lives.

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