Malawi has become the first country to immunize children against malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday.
The African nation is the first to administer a vaccine, according to the organization, which added that Ghana and Kenya will also begin doing so in the coming weeks.
A pilot program seeks to reach about 360,000 children per year across the three countries, WHO added.
“Delivering the world’s first malaria vaccine will help reduce the burden of one of the most pressing health challenges globally,” Dr. Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer at vaccine manufacturer GSK, said in a statement. “This novel tool is the result of GSK employees collaborating with their partners, applying the latest in vaccine science to contribute to the fight against malaria.”
Approximately 250,000 children die from malaria every year in Africa. The parasitic disease is especially dangerous for children under the age of five.
Clinical trials found the new vaccine prevented approximately four in 10 malaria cases, according to the WHO.
“Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given. The poorest children suffer the most and are at highest risk of death,”Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the group’s regional director for Africa, said.
“We know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”
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