WHO recommends first malaria vaccine for kids as young as 5 months

The World Health Organization has recommended the protein-based recombinant malaria vaccine RTS,S for use with kids who live in places with moderate and high transmission risk. The organization announced its recommendation today, stating that there should be "widespread use" of this vaccine with children following a smaller pilot program in select countries.

RTS,S has the distinction of being the first malaria vaccine that offers some protection against the disease in young kids. The product has been tested under an ongoing pilot program in multiple countries over the past couple of years; more than 800,000 kids have already received the malaria vaccine as part of this trial.

Unfortunately, malaria — a serious disease caused by parasites and spread by mosquitos — remains the top cause of death and illnesses in children who live in sub-Saharan Africa. According to WHO, more than a quarter-million kids under the age of five die every year in this region from malaria, making the vaccine a major milestone for public health in the region.

Talking about that is WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who said:

For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering. We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. 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.

The recommendation covers kids in high-risk locations who will receive four doses of the vaccine starting at the age of five months. WHO says its recommendation is based on data on vaccine recipients in three African countries; around 2.3 million doses of the malaria vaccine have been administered over the past two years, revealing a "favorable safety profile."