First Malaria Vaccine Approved by WHO

‘Historic Event’: First Malaria Vaccine Approved by W.H.O.

Malaria kills about 500,000 people each year, about half of them children in Africa. The new vaccine isn’t perfect, but it will help turn the tide, experts said.

A ‘Historic Day’: W.H.O. Approves First Malaria Vaccine

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director general, said the long-awaited vaccine was a breakthrough for science and could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.

As some of you may know, I started my career as a malaria researcher, and I longed for the day that we would have an effective vaccine against this ancient and terrible disease. And today is that day — an historic day. Today, W.H.O. is recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine. This recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019. This long-awaited malaria vaccine is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine, in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria, could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.

The world has gained a new weapon in the war on malaria, among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases: the first vaccine shown to help prevent the disease. By one estimate, it will save tens of thousands of children each year.

Malaria kills about half a million people each year, nearly all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — including 260,000 children under 5. The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday endorsed the vaccine, the first step in a process that should lead to wide distribution in poor countries. To have a malaria vaccine that is safe, moderately effective and ready for distribution is “a historic event,” said Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the W.H.O.’s global malaria program.

Malaria is rare in the developed world. There are just 2,000 cases in the United States each year, mostly among travelers returning from countries in which the disease is endemic.

The vaccine, called Mosquirix, is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease. Parasites are much more complex than viruses or bacteria, and the quest for a malaria vaccine has been underway for a hundred years.

“It’s a huge jump from the science perspective to have a first-generation vaccine against a human parasite,” Dr. Alonso said.

In clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50 percent against severe malaria in the first year, but the figure dropped close to zero by the fourth year. And the trials did not directly measure the vaccine’s impact on deaths, which has led some experts to question whether it is a worthwhile investment in countries with countless other intractable problems.

But severe malaria accounts for up to half of malaria deaths and is considered “a reliable proximal indicator of mortality,” said Dr. Mary Hamel, who leads the W.H.O.’s malaria vaccine implementation program. “I do expect we will see that impact.”

A modeling study last year estimated that if the vaccine were rolled out to countries with the highest incidence of malaria, it could prevent 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children younger than 5 each year.

A recent trial of the vaccine in combination with preventive drugs given to children during high-transmission seasons found that the dual approach was much more effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death than either method alone.

The malaria parasite, carried by mosquitoes, is a particularly insidious enemy, because it can strike the same person over and over. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, even those where most people sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets, children have on average six malaria episodes a year.

Even when the disease is not fatal, the repeated assault on their bodies can permanently alter the immune system, leaving them weak and vulnerable to other pathogens.


A nurse discussed the new malaria vaccine at the Ewim Polyclinic in Cape Coast, Ghana. More than 2.3 million doses have been administered, reaching more than 800,000 children.

Malaria research is littered with vaccine candidates that never made it past clinical trials. Bed nets, the most widespread preventive measure, cut malaria deaths in children under 5 only by about 20 percent.

Against that backdrop, the new vaccine, even with modest efficacy, is the best new development in the fight against the disease in decades, some experts said.

“Progress against malaria has really stalled over the last five or six years, particularly in some of the hardest hit countries in the world,” said Ashley Birkett, who heads malaria programs at PATH, a nonprofit organization focused on global health.

With the new vaccine, “there’s potential for very, very significant impact there,” Dr. Birkett said.

Mosquirix is given in three doses between ages 5 and 17 months, and a fourth dose roughly 18 months later. Following clinical trials, the vaccine was tried out in three countries — Kenya, Malawi and Ghana — where it was incorporated into routine immunization programs.

More than 2.3 million doses have been administered in those countries, reaching more than 800,000 children. That bumped up the percentage of children protected against malaria in some way to more than 90 percent, from less than 70 percent, Dr. Hamel said.

“The ability to reduce inequities in access to malaria prevention — that’s important,” Dr. Hamel said. “It was impressive to see that this could reach children who are currently not being protected.”

It took years to create an efficient system to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets to families. By contrast, including Mosquirix among routine immunizations made it surprisingly easy to distribute, Dr. Hamel added — even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted lockdowns and disrupted supply chains.

“We aren’t going to have to spend a decade trying to figure out how to get this to children,” he said.

This week, a working group of independent experts in malaria, child health epidemiology and statistics, as well as the W.H.O.’s vaccine advisory group, met to review data from the pilot programs and to make their formal recommendation to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the W.H.O.

“We still have a very long road to travel, but this is a long stride down that road,” Dr. Tedros said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The next step is for Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, to determine that the vaccine is a worthwhile investment. If the organization’s board approves the vaccine — not guaranteed, given the vaccine’s moderate efficacy and the many competing priorities — Gavi will purchase the vaccine for countries that request it, a process that is expected to take at least a year.

But as with Covid-19, problems with vaccine production and supply could considerably delay progress. And the pandemic has also diverted resources and attention from other diseases, said Deepali Patel, who leads malaria vaccine programs at Gavi.

“Covid is a big unknown in the room in terms of where capacity is currently in countries, and rolling out Covid-19 vaccines is a huge effort,” Ms. Patel said. “We’re really going to have to see how the pandemic unfolds next year in terms of when countries will be ready to pick up all of these other priorities.”

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The vaccine, called Mosquirix, is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease. Parasites are much more complex than viruses or bacteria, and the quest for a malaria vaccine has been underway for a hundred years.

In clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50 percent against severe malaria in the first year, but the figure dropped close to zero by the fourth year. And the trials did not directly measure the vaccine’s impact on deaths, which has led some experts to question whether it is a worthwhile investment in countries with countless other intractable problems.

Good news, but needs more research. Unfortunately, Pharma is more concerned with important things like erection pills and hooking people on opioids.

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I think you left out anti-anxiety medications needed for our youth after our Social Media visionaries helped mess them up.

Guy

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Fingers crossed it turns out well. Malaria has been a real problem for WAY too long. If it turns out to work well, or aspects of it do, hopefully it will open up the doors to more vaccines for simalr types of diseases.

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I hope it works. This will save so many lives.

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And mainly children. It’s taken a long time, but it’s great news that the vaccine focus is on children in poor countries.

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Tentatively optimistic. Malaria is a truly horrible disease that causes huge problems. I just hope they test it a bit more rigorously than certain other vaccines we could mention.

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They’ve had a long time to test it.

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Oh, I’m sure whatever the testing, you’ll get anti-vaxxers out there screaming that it’s all a woke racist plan by Big Pharma and Bill Gates to implant Africans with microchips to turn them into homosexuals

They probably won’t care about Africans, regardless of sexuality.

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Hahaha. Man, thats so funny.

Until i think about how true it is. Now i feel like shit and want to snuggle in my chinese made sheets, with african sourced minerals while i watch tv on a device equally as horrendous.

There is nothing more comfortable than remedying my hate of innequality online quite like comforting myself with products made by quasi legal slave labor all the while inhaling toxic fumes caused directly by my purchases. Mmmmmm, home cookin.

End of the day i hope people ask themselves directly without a facebook post: CCP Virus vaccine took a year and change, while malaria took decades. I understand the differences are quite vast and valid. But so are the fucks given and motives. Lets not just call foul or call saving Grace so willy nilly. Its clearly, to the utmost degree, how retarded this is (big picture). However i am actually glad malaria is gaining in the shits given category. I wont even bother mentioning how africa is now invaded (again) by foreign interests or how global warming is making other nations worry about pathogen hosts’ migrations. Nope. Better late than never. Thats what i say!

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Some people actually have connections to Africa. This stuff matters.

Guy

We do too. Many do. Hence my level or sarcasm and disgust in my post…read my above post through the lense of hypocrisy, dissapointment and disgust. But also great happiness at leas something is going forward now. But take the hope with a dash of scepticism, there is likely an angle somewhere for sone heartless asshole making a buck. Its not being jaded, just accepting history haha.

Don’t feel those things man. Be happy that an important medical milestone was just reached!

Guy

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True. I want to be happy. I think the scientific end will open doors exponentially. I ha e doubts on the marketing, logistics and WHO side of things though.

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Obviously malaria is a tricky nut to crack, but as it spreads northwards it will get cracked.

Yup, thats very true. The sad part is the priority only came to fruition due to the disease going outward and/or people of importance came inward. Thats where its at bit of a dissapointment on our international bodies hat claim a lot of “humanitarian” type backpatting. The scientists that cracked it, nothing but respect. They surely could do that lot if w enabled them to be able to do so. the people only funding it until its close to their street while happily enabling facebook, tiktok or whatever meaningless money sinks…well…f*ck you.

I think the CCP virus situation has shown us a lot of true colors on so many levels. It is up to us whether we want to realise them and accept responsibility.

I hope much more progress is made with real long term issues that we have mostly ignored due to selfishness and greed (eg. Malaria