World Health Organization Set to Vaccinate 750,000 Toddlers Against Malaria

(Photo: D. Poland/PATH)

               Scientists finally have a vaccine for the 2,000-year old disease which currently kills about 429,000 people per year: Malaria. In 2018, the World Health Organization will launch a program to vaccinate 750,000 toddlers in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. After thirty years of work, scientists have developed the new vaccine by the name of RTS,S, which is to be administered in a series of four shots.

               Much of the funding for the development vaccine came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the PATH Malaria Initiative. The World Health Organization, GlaxoSmithKline, and nonprofits such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria are covering $49.2 million cost to distribute the vaccine through 2020.

               Though news RTS,S is exciting, clinical trials indicate that it will only stop malaria in about 30 percent of infants and 40 percent of toddlers. Still, this is considered to be the best option as of now and the World Health Organization is confident that the vaccine will reduce the annual number of malaria deaths. The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso offers, "The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot program 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."

Alanna Shingler Staff Reporter