The World's First Malaria Vaccine Is About To Be Given To 360,000 Children

It's a historic moment in the battle against one of the world's deadliest diseases.

More than 360,000 children in three African countries are set to receive the world's first malaria vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday.


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During clinical trials, the vaccine successfully prevented malaria in four out of ten cases, according to WHO. That could mean a huge breakthrough in the battle against malaria, which kills around 435,000 people every year, making it one of the deadliest diseases on the planet.

"We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press statement.
"We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there. The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children's lives."

Malawi has begun vaccinating children under the age of two already, CNN reported, and Kenya and Ghana will begin using the vaccine in the coming weeks. WHO says that malaria kills one child every two minutes and 250,000 children a year die from malaria in Africa alone. 

The new vaccine, dubbed Mosquirix, was created more than 30 years ago, but it only becomes readily available after decades of testing. Malaria deaths were reduced drastically in the beginning of the 21st century with the spread of mosquito nets, insecticides, and bug spray, but malaria suddenly ramped up in the last few years, according to the BBC, and scientists believe mosquitos have become resistant to many of the drugs that were killing them.

While the vaccine isn't totally effective, Alena Pance, a senior staff scientist at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, told CNN that it would still be a boon to saving children's' lives.

"It is very important to bear in mind that 40 percent protection in the most endemic part of the world, Africa, is better than no protection at all," Pance said. "Ultimately, this is the only vaccine that has some efficacy that we currently have and has taken decades to develop, this is in itself good news."

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