In the latest update to its malaria guidelines, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine be used to prevent P. falciparum malaria in children living in areas moderate to high transmission.
This is the first time that a vaccine against malaria has been recommended by the world organization.
“The first malaria vaccine is a major step forward for the fight against malaria, child health and health equity. If implemented on a large scale, the vaccine could save tens of thousands of lives every year,” said Dr Kate O’Brien, director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals. “This guidance is critical for countries considering whether and how to adopt the vaccine as an additional tool to reduce childhood illness and death from malaria.”
Following the recommendation, the WHO also released an updated position paper recommending wider use of the vaccine in children most at risk. It summarized general information and provided context about malaria and its disease patterns. He also presented the evidence for the effectiveness of RTS,S, discussed its role alongside other preventative measures, and made recommendations for its wider deployment. This all followed and was based on the October 2021 WHO recommendation for RTS,S and assessments from global advisory bodies, including the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization and the Advisory Group on the anti-malaria policy (MPAG).
Now, the malaria vaccine recommendation has been integrated into WHO’s MAGICapp platform to unite its malaria recommendations in one online platform. Subsequently, countries were encouraged to adapt the new guidance to their own local use.
“In recent years, WHO has advised countries to move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to malaria control, instead applying a mix of tools informed by local data and disease patterns. the disease,” Dr Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said. “The malaria vaccine is a revolutionary addition to the malaria toolbox.”
Supplies of RTS,S should still be limited, and as such, the WHO has laid the foundations of a guide for their allocation. Additional tools and information to guide countries in vaccine adoption are expected to follow in the coming months.