The first Malaria vaccine – RTS,S/A01

As highlighted by the RBM Partnership in their statement and key messages – after more than three decades of research and development in this area – this is a historic moment for the global malaria community as the first malaria vaccine recommended for widespread use among children in Africa.

W4GF welcomes this good news! Although malaria is preventable and treatable, the disease has progressively concentrated in high- burden communities, endangering lives, burdening health systems and slowing economic development. It is pregnant women and children who are especially vulnerable for epidemiological reasons, and many women struggled to access prevention and treatment services due to social, economic and cultural factors that disadvantage and harm them. Over the past years, the situation has gotten worse. COVID-19 has drawn into sharp focus and exacerbated existing inequities and vulnerabilities that affect the health and lives of women and girls.

“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.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to ending malaria. To maximize limited resources, countries must scale up community case management and a range of complementary tools and tailor and time them to the local context.

  • The protection provided by RTS,S – when used in combination with recommended vector control – has the potential to save tens of thousands of children per year. However, countries will need to determine if and how RTS,S can complement their malaria 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.
  • RTS,S is a complementary pediatric malaria prevention and control intervention that should be paired with other interventions in the core package of WHO-recommended measures, such as effective insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) or indoor residual spraying (IRS).
  • RTS,S offers an opportunity to reach more children with malaria prevention. However, there should be simultaneous efforts made to increase access and use to all recommended malaria interventions.
  • Countries, with support from partners, must scale up coverage of highly effective ITNs, IRS and SMC and IPTp/i – as well as community case management – to save more lives, strengthen community health and make best use of limited resources.
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