Historic moment for the global malaria community as first malaria vaccine recommended for widespread use among children in Africa
Geneva, 6 October 2021 – The RBM Partnership to End Malaria welcomes today’s historic recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO) to scale up deployment of the first-ever malaria vaccine as a complementary prevention tool for children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission .
Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, said: “The WHO announcement is a historic milestone for the global malaria community, and the RBM Partnership congratulates the commitment and efforts of many partners over three decades in reaching this milestone in malaria innovation.
Today’s announcement reinforces how investments in malaria innovation save lives. To accelerate progress against malaria and save more lives, we must urgently increase access to and optimize the use of all effective tools, as well as scale up community case management, in the highest burden countries.
RTS,S presents a new addition to the growing set of available tools and, when used in combination with other effective, life-saving interventions such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying, the vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children per year.
Following today’s recommendation, countries will need to determine if and how RTS,S can complement their malaria prevention and control strategy by evaluating a range of considerations, including epidemiology, supply, cost and logistics, to determine when and where RTS,S can be most effective. Further investment must therefore be mobilized to fund the vaccine and ensure it is readily accessible to countries that decide to use it.
The RBM Partnership will continue its work with malaria endemic countries* to use data-driven approaches in determining the optimal mix of malaria prevention and control tools, including RTS,S, for their local context. We also welcome more research and analysis to assess the impact of combining tools.
However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to ending malaria. Current tools are not enough to get us to eradication within a generation.To achieve zero malaria, donor and malaria endemic countries also must stay invested in accelerating the development of next-generation technologies— in vaccines and biologics, vector control, and beyond – to stay ahead of the rapidly evolving mosquito and malaria parasite.
By enabling countries to tailor and target the right set of tools to meet their needs, committing to accelerate access to life-saving tools and increasing investment in innovation, we can end malaria and deliver a healthier, more equitable and more prosperous world for all.”
First piloted in 2019, the RTS,S/A01 vaccine is the world’s first malaria vaccine shown to provide partial protection against malaria in children under five, and is the first-ever vaccine against a human parasite recommended for use by WHO. Over the past two years, the health ministries of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, through a large-scale pilot programme coordinated by the WHO, administered over 2 million vaccine doses to 800,000 children under five, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past two decades, increased funding, political commitment and innovative tools have drastically reduced the global burden of malaria, preventing 1.5 billion cases and saving 7.6 million lives. However, the rate of progress against the disease has plateaued in high-burden countries since 2015, as has global investment in the fight against malaria.
* This approach lies at the heart of the ‘High Burden to High Impact’ country-led approach championed by WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.