The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of the RTS,S malaria vaccine for children aged above five months. This follows an elaborate pilot of the vaccine in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi that began in 2019 and that has reached more than 800,000 children.
Results for the pilot have demonstrated that the Malaria vaccine can be used for the prevention of Plasmodium falciparum Malaria in children.
The results show the vaccine is feasible to deliver, increases equity in access to malaria prevention, has an acceptable safety profile, potentiates other malaria prevention measures and is highly cost-effective.
This is a huge boost because the disease is a major cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa with more than 260,000 children below five dying from the disease annually.
In 2018, I participated in the vaccine’s pharmacovigilance and surveillance programme at Kintampo Health Research Centre in Ghana. The goal of this programme was to train healthcare workers to recognise adverse events following the use of the vaccine in the pilot.
To date, more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the three African countries and the vaccine has a favourable safety profile.
This development further attests to the workable mantra, “start private, go public” as it provides evidence that private-public partnerships can revamp public health.
The vaccine is a result of more than 30 years of research and development by GSK partnering with PATH, African research centres and ministries of health in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi with initial funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.