Malawi will on Tuesday spearhead large-scale pilot tests for the world's most advanced experimental malaria vaccine in a bid to prevent the disease that kills hundreds of thousands across Africa each year.
The pilot program for the RTS, S vaccine launched in Malawi and is available to children 2 years and under.
After more than three decades in development and nearly $1bn in investment, the cutting-edge trial is being rolled out in Malawi's capital Lilongwe and then in Kenya and Ghana next week.
"We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas", said World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"This may be another imperfect tool, but if used perfectly, it will help us get back on track to seeing a world free of malaria", Alonso said. The vaccine may serve as a new solution that will potentially save tens of thousands of children's lives.
"I've seen children being vaccinated in the clinic today and heard about the hopes of the vaccine [from mothers and clinicians]", she said. World Health Organization reports that about 285,000 children died before their fifth birthdays in 2016.
The vaccine is a complementary malaria control tool to be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.
The pilot countries were chosen among 10 African countries, on the basis of well-functioning malaria and immunization programs as well as areas having moderate to high transmission of malaria.
Although the potential vaccine will not give full protection against the mosquito-borne disease, it is the furthest along in development and so far the most effective.
"This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like", Craig said. It is both preventable and treatable, yet an estimated 435,000 people die of it each year.
The almost 40% efficacy is not high in comparison with vaccines for other diseases, but Dr Schellenberg says RTS, S will add to the preventative measures, such as bed nets and insecticides, already being used.
Craig said one of health officials' biggest challenges could be persuading parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that protects only about a third of children for a limited amount of time.
"We look forward to the start of vaccination in Ghana, and then Kenya later this year". Ministries of health will determine where the vaccine will be given. "This novel tool is the result of GSK employees collaborating with their partners, applying the latest in vaccine science to contribute to the fight against malaria", said Dr Thomas Breuer, Chief Medical Officer of GSK Vaccines.
As per a report by The Guardian, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid are providing just under $50m (£38m) to fund the first phase of the pilots in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana.
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