Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Unitaid, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria applauded the World Health Organization’s (WHO) proposal for the RTS,S malaria vaccine to be used more widely in routine.
The advice was based on data collected over a two-year period by the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi.
More than 2.3 million RTS,S doses had been provided throughout the three countries as of September 2021, more than two years after vaccinations began, and more than 800,000 children had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Despite the COVID-19 epidemic, the RTS,S pilots achieved and maintained strong coverage levels.
The fact that severe malaria hospitalizations were decreased by 30% was largely recognized by caregivers and healthcare staff.
In Mali and Burkina Faso, nations with considerable seasonal fluctuation in malaria transmission, a clinical research led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at the impact of seasonal malaria vaccine administration combined with seasonal malaria chemoprevention.
When the vaccination was combined with preventive antimalarials, severe malaria cases in children decreased by more than 70%, according to the findings.
“Today marks a historic achievement in our fight against malaria,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in a statement.
“Malaria still kills over 250,000 children every year.
“The vaccine is an important additional tool to help control this disease alongside other interventions, such as bed nets, and especially when delivered seasonally in combination with antimalarial medication.
“I applaud the countries and communities who participated in the trials and pilots to provide this critical new tool for African countries.”
Ministries of Health led the implementation of the vaccine, which was delivered through routine immunisation programmes, with WHO playing a coordinating role, working in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, PATH and UNICEF.
Following its investment of around $700 million dollars in the development of RTS,S, GSK has donated up to 10 million doses for the pilot programme. Gavi, the Global Fund and Unitaid have together committed nearly $70 million dollars to fund the pilot.
It was designed to address several outstanding questions related to the public health use of the vaccine following the Phase three trial showing the efficacy of RTS,S.
“We welcome this new tool in the fight against malaria,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund.
“In countries where the Global Fund invests, we have reduced malaria deaths by 45 per cent since 2002 with testing, treatment and prevention tools such as mosquito nets.
“In the vaccine pilots, the RTS,S vaccine was most effective when used together with these existing tools.’’
Dr Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of Unitaid, said significant additional resources would, however, be necessary to enable wide deployment of the vaccine alongside other innovations, and as part of a sustained and comprehensive response in the countries that need it the most.”
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, progress against malaria was stalling.
“This vaccine is a welcome new tool that, when used in combination with existing interventions like bed nets, has the potential to drive down malaria and extend protection to children across Africa.
“Pilot implementation has demonstrated how we can equitably reach children with this life-saving vaccine – now we need to ensure adequate and affordable supply to truly reignite the fight against malaria”, Duneton said.