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World’s First Malaria Vaccine Due to Launch in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2018

mllaria-minThe world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S, will be rolled out in pilot projects in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization disclosed late on Thursday. The WHO is expected to name countries to be involved in the pilot program soon.

According to a WHO statement, funding is secured for the initial phase of the program and vaccinations are due to begin in 2018.

‘‘The vaccine, known as RTS,S, acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa. Advanced clinical trials have shown RTS,S to provide partial protection against malaria in young children,” a statement from the global health body stated.

“The pilot deployment of this first-generation vaccine marks a milestone in the fight against malaria. These pilot projects will provide the evidence we need from real-life settings to make informed decisions on whether to deploy the vaccine on a wide scale,” said Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme.

On the issue of country selection, the WHO statement said, ‘‘Consultations are ongoing and the names of the three selected countries will be announced in the coming weeks.”

RTS,S is touted as the first malaria vaccine to successfully complete pivotal Phase 3 testing. The Phase 3 trial enrolled more than 15,000 infants and young children in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Countries that participated in the Phase 3 clinical trials will be prioritized for inclusion in the WHO pilot program.

RTS,S was developed through a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI). The two bodies received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from a network of African research centers.

“WHO recognizes and commends the leadership and support of all funding agencies and partners who have made this achievement possible,” said Dr. Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, director of the WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.

Facts about financing of the vaccine:
–The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved $15 million for the malaria vaccine pilots, and the amount will fully fund the first phase of the program.
–Earlier this year, the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and UNITAID announced commitments of up to $27.5 million and $9.6 million, respectively, for the first four years of the vaccine program.
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