Malawi becomes 1st nation to immunise kids against malaria

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A large-scale trial of what has been called the world's first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children is due to start in Malawi.

Known by its lab initials as RTS, S but branded Mosquirix, the vaccine has passed lengthy scientific trials, which found it to be safe and reduced the risk of malaria by almost 40 percent - the best-ever recorded.

A study showed that the innovative vaccine prevented about four in 10 malaria cases among children and "overall, there were 29% fewer cases of severe malaria in children who received the vaccine". O'Brien said that about 360,000 children will be vaccinated each year across the three countries.

Malaria claims the life of a child every two minutes and kills about 435,000 people a year, a lot of them in Africa.

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WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the new program, noting progress has "stalled and even reversed" in the ongoing fight against malaria.

The pilot program for the RTS, S vaccine launched in Malawi and is available to children 2 years and under. According to World Health Organization data, malaria appears to be making a comeback, with 21.9 crore cases in 2017 against 21.7 crore in 2016.

"But it is very important to bear in mind that 40% protection in the most endemic part of the world, Africa, is better than no protection at all". It was also an effort to use bioengineering to eradicate the spread of malaria by decreasing the number of the disease spreading insects.

"This is a day to celebrate as we begin to learn more about what this tool can do to change the trajectory of malaria through childhood vaccination", she added. The vaccine has been developed over a period of 30 years by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in coordination with non-profit organisation PATH. They also found that it prevented three in ten cases of life-threatening malaria.

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Dr O'Brien said the vaccine lasted for at least for seven years and would target infants because they are most at risk.

WHO's Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said malaria was "a constant threat" to the communities where it was being administered in the coming weeks.

As per a report by The Guardian, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid are providing just under $50m (£38m) to fund the first phase of the pilots in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana.

Vaccine uptake, i.e. whether parents bring their children on time for the required doses.

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While celebrating the launch of the vaccine, the World Health Organization also reminds that it's a complementary malaria control tool added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, including the routine use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and the timely use of malaria testing and treatment. Alonso cited the need to understand where the vaccine would be adding benefit - whether it would be to all areas where malaria is endemic, or only the ones with the greatest need.

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