The world’s first ever malaria vaccine is being put to use to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa.
In terms of diseases, Malaria is one of the big killers out there. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 435 000 deaths due to malaria in 2017 with over 200,000 of them being children. Most of those infections happened in sub-Saharan Africa where poverty often prevents appropriate methods of preventing the spread of Malaria.
But now there is new hope. A new vaccine has just been invented that might save the lives of thousands.
The new vaccine, called RSS,S (and yes, that comma is in the name of the vaccine), will be used in three African nations to start: Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi. Children will be the first to get the vaccine as they’re the most likely to suffer complications from infection and there is only a limited supply of the vaccine to go around.
It’s expected that 360,000 children will be vaccinated as part of the program. Malawi has already started vaccinating children under the age of two years old, while Ghana and Kenya are still working with the WHO to determine an appropriate age limit.
Unfortunately, the vaccine isn’t as effective as we’d like. The RSS,S vaccine will only prevent 4 out of 10 infections, which makes it 40% effective. But that’s still better than nothing and is also a huge breakthrough when previous attempts at Malaria vaccines were not effective at all.
The other problem with the vaccine is that it requires 4 doses in order to build up a lifetime immunity. Getting people from rich countries to go to a scheduled appointment can be difficult, but doing it in a poor country where taking a day off work can mean starvation turns it into a real issue.
So the vaccine isn’t ideal, but it’s a start, and it’s incredibly important to the eventual elimination of Malaria. So long as people don’t get crazy ideas about vaccines causing autism, or something else equally improbable.