First-ever malaria vaccine to get WHO recommendation for roll-out

15 Oct 2021
Photo: Young African boy

MMV welcomes news from the WHO that GSK’s RTS,S malaria vaccine (MosquirixTM) is now recommended for deployment in African infants. This represents the first malaria vaccine, and first vaccine against a human parasite, to be approved and rolled-out.

This landmark recommendation is based on the results of a WHO-coordinated pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, where the vaccine has been deployed since 2019, with funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and Unitaid.

With support from Ministries of Health in these three countries as well as a range of in-country and international partners, more than 800,000 children have received at least one dose of RTS,S, and 2.3 million doses have been administered through routine immunization programmes.

The pilot programme gauged the feasibility of delivering the 4-dose regimen of the vaccine to children, the complexity of which had initially raised concerns. It also studied the vaccine’s role in reducing childhood deaths and its safety profile in the context of routine use. Data reveal that RTS,S has a favorable safety profile and when deployed alongside standard malaria protection measures can significantly reduce the development of severe, life-threatening malaria, and can be delivered effectively in real-life settings.

It’s important to note that the RTS,S vaccine does not offer full protection against malaria — clinical trials suggested that it reduces the risk of contracting malaria by 40% and the risk of hospital admission with severe malaria by around 30% when at least three doses are administered. These results have been confirmed by the pilot programme.

Although its effectiveness does not match those of vaccines against other childhood diseases such as measles or rubella — the use of RTS,S is expected to help reduce the burden of malaria on children in endemic countries where this vulnerable group can contract the disease many times a year. Read more...