Mon. Oct 11th, 2021

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LONDON: Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Thursday hailed the WHO’s “landmark” decision to recommend the widespread use of a malaria vaccine for the first time, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives in Africa every year.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine should be given to children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.
The LSHTM team behind the vaccine said its use will maximise the impact in high burden areas and boost efforts to drive down child mortality in Africa.
“This is a historic day for malaria. For the first time we have a vaccine that is now recommended for expanded use in areas of Africa where the disease is endemic,” said Professor Sir Brian Greenwood from LSHTM, who played a pivotal role in malaria vaccination trials and research since the inception of RTS,S.
“With malaria still a major cause of death, especially among children in Africa, this decision has the potential to save millions of young lives. We urgently need more tools and innovative, practical solutions to malaria,” he said.
Professor Greenwood said while the RTS,S vaccine does not provide a complete protection, it forms a part of a tailored approach to reduce death and illness in high burden areas, especially when combined with other interventions such as seasonal malaria chemoprevention and bed nets, and be a huge boost to malaria control efforts.
“It is important that long-term investment and commitment to science and global health partnerships like these continue so that the complex challenges that a disease such as malaria poses can be addressed and the potentially lifesaving benefits of RTS,S and other interventions can be realised,” he said.
LSHTM researchers, with partners around the world, conducted a wide range of work that has helped develop crucial evidence underpinning the WHO approval, from designing and implementing clinical trials, to researching where RTS,S might be best targeted and to whom.
LSHTM warned that after considerable gains in the past two decades, malaria control progress has stalled and new tools are urgently needed to fight malaria and protect vulnerable children at risk of illness and death.
Africa continues to bear the heaviest malaria burden and African children are at highest risk of dying of malaria: more than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.



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