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Kenya, Ghana and Malawi to get first ever malaria vaccine

24/04/2017

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi to get first ever malaria vaccineThe world's first vaccine against malaria will be introduced in three countries - Kenya, Ghana and Malawi - starting in 2018; a move that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.

The RTS,S vaccine, as it's known, trains the body's immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is transmitted to people through mosquito bites.

However, it is not yet known if the vaccine will be feasible to use in the poorest parts of the world where access to healthcare is often very limited. This is because the vaccine needs to be given four times over an 18-month period.

The concern is that while the vaccine schedule could be followed in a closely-controlled and well-funded clinical trial, real-world situations may prove more difficult - especially in poorer countries. It's the primary reason the WHO is running trials of the vaccine in the three aforementioned countries.

It is thought that high risk areas will be targeted first in each of the three countries, all of which already run large programmes to tackle malaria.

The trial will involve more than 750,000 children aged between five and 17 months. In the clinical trial, the vaccine prevented nearly four in 10 cases of malaria in this age group.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said: "The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news.

"Information gathered in the pilot programme will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine.

"Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa."
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