More than three decades after scientists at GlaxoSmithKline started developing it, a malaria vaccine was finally approved Wednesday by the WHO. The vaccine could help save the lives of 400,000 people who still succumb to malaria every year (more than 50% are children under 5), most in sub-Saharan Africa. The vaccine is formulated for inoculating young children as well as adults.
Per WSJ, the WHO's endorsement is a critical step for enabling production and the rollout of the jab, which unfortunately could take years to come into wide use across the continent of Africa.
The malaria jab will be administered in four doses. It has already been used to inoculate more than 800K children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi as part of a long-running pilot program.
In a press release announcing its approval, the WHO said the jab offers "a glimmer of hope" for the Continent's most vulnerable children and others.
"Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults," said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti in the release.
Notably, the vaccine - called TS,S or Mosquirix - is the first jab to ever be deployed against a parasitic disease. The jab was designed to work against Plasmodium falciparum, the most common malaria parasite in Africa, and the deadliest.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the press release.
But before anybody gets too excited, WSJ points out that the vaccine was only shown to reduce severe malaria cases by 30%. Because of this, and the difficulty of distribution, it could take years to see how effective the vaccine is in the real world.
While it typically doesn't overwhelm hospitals, malaria has been steadily killing people by the hundreds of thousands for years.
Yet its development and approval wasn't considered an emergency?