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WHO approves new vaccine for the first time

When we talk about the vaccine right now, we naturally think of Covid-19, but the good news of the day concerns another disease.

For the first time ever, the World Health Organization has approved a vaccine called RTS, S against malaria. She now recommends its use “in large scale”In children in the areas most affected by the disease.

Parasites of the genus Plasmodium, where the disease’s other name comes from (malaria), are a major cause of death. The institution estimates that more than 250,000 children die each year from malaria on the African continent alone. Globally, this figure even exceeds 400,000 people. This vaccine therefore represents excellent news in terms of public health.

It’s a historic moment”, Confirms Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the institution in a press release. “This vaccine is a major breakthrough for science, children’s health and malaria control.

Excellent safety, but moderate effectiveness

However, it will not be a panacea; it prevents around 40% of cases, including 29% of severe cases. Relatively low efficacy, which will not allow the vaccine to eradicate malaria on its own. It will therefore have to be integrated in addition to other preventive measures, such as insecticides and mosquito nets. But knowing that there are more than 200 million cases each year, there is much to make a considerable difference. “It could save tens of thousands of young lives every year”, Insists Dr. Ghebreyesus.

Plasmodium falciparum is a parasite responsible for malaria. © Tim Vickers – WikiCommons

In addition, if the effectiveness is not exceptional, it has the advantage of being extremely safe. It has been the subject of extensive clinical trials, with 2.3 million doses already administered. An impressive number, which confirms that this vaccine is perfectly safe.

Delay while waiting for the changeover

It will therefore improve the situation while waiting for a more efficient vaccine to end it once and for all. And this one could happen in the relatively near future. Last April, the University ofOxford announced considerable progress in this area, thanks to mRNA vaccine technology. At the end of a second phase of clinical trial carried out on 450 children, their vaccine R21/Matrix-M achieved 77% efficiency. It is the first vaccine candidate against malaria to exceed the symbolic 75% mark.

After decades of struggle, research therefore seems closer than ever to eradicating this scourge. “Today’s recommendation offers real hope for the continent hardest hit by this disease”Summarizes Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We expect more and more African children to be protected from malaria, and grow up to be healthy adults..”

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