First anti­malarial vaccine “RTS, S “


    In News 

    • Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed the first antimalarial vaccine.


    • RTS, S was first authorised in 2015 by the European Medicines Agency for use in Africa in infants and children.
    • The WHO recommended widespread use of the RTS, S/AS01 (RTS, S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission. 
    • The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.

    Key findings of the malaria vaccine pilots

    • Feasible to deliver: Vaccine introduction is feasible, improves health and saves lives, with good and equitable coverage of RTS, S saw through routine immunization systems. 
      • This occurred even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Reaching the unreached: RTS, S increases equity in access to malaria prevention.
    • Data from the pilot programme showed that more than two-thirds of children in the 3 countries who are not sleeping under a bednet are benefitting from the RTS, S vaccine.
    • Strong safety profile: To date, more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in 3 African countries – the vaccine has a favourable safety profile. 
      • No negative impact on the uptake of bednets, other childhood vaccinations, or health-seeking behaviour for febrile illness. 
    • High impact in real-life childhood vaccination settings: Significant reduction (30%) in deadly severe malaria, even when introduced in areas where insecticide-treated nets are widely used and there is good access to diagnosis and treatment.
    • Highly cost-effective: Modelling estimates that the vaccine is cost-effective in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission.
    • Financial support: Financing for the pilot programme has been mobilized through an unprecedented collaboration among three key global health funding bodies: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and Unitaid.

    Significance and need 

    • The development comes at a time when the WHO and its partners have reported stagnation in the progress against the disease that kills more than 2,60,000 African children under the age of five annually. 
      • Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa.
    • The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control.
    • It will help in saving tens of thousands of young lives each year.