Malaria has long been one of the deadliest diseases in Africa, and fighting it has been a long and tiring struggle. When the RTS,S vaccine came out in 2021, it raised hopes for what could be a turning point in the fight against Malaria. For now, it seems to have had a profound change on the 1 million children inoculated against the disease.
New hope against Malaria
More than 1 million children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have received one or more doses of the RTS,S malaria vaccine. The vaccine has so far proven to be safe, easy to administer, and greatly reduces the risk of extreme and fatal cases of Malaria.
These beginning stages of distribution of the RTS,S vaccine were under a pilot program for the World Health Organization (WHO) and have prompted the WHO recommendation for an expansion of vaccination efforts to other highly Malaria-affected regions. If administered successfully to these regions, the WHO estimates that the vaccine could save an additional 40 000 to 80 000 African children each year.
“As a malaria researcher in my early career, I dreamed of the day we would have an effective vaccine against this devastating disease,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This vaccine is not just a scientific breakthrough, it’s life-changing for families across Africa. It demonstrates the power of science and innovation for health. Even so, there is an urgent need to develop more and better tools to save lives and drive progress towards a malaria-free world.”
One of many new, and soon-to-be, Malaria preventatives
RTS,S broke ground in the field of Malaria vaccines, and the WHO is interested in the progress being made by developers of the next generation. For instance, BioNTech is working to develop a Malaria vaccine using mRNA technology, which has already proven effective in vaccination against certain viruses.
The WHO is also waiting for the findings on new vectors for controlling the spread of Malaria, such as new types of insecticide-treated nets, spatial mosquito repellents, gene-drive approaches, and sugar baits designed to attract and kill mosquitoes. Should these prove effective, the WHO will advise on the use strategy and possibly provide funding for new initiatives which could save even more lives.