BRAZZAVILLE, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been picked to take part in a World Health Organization (WHO) malaria vaccine implementation programme (MVIP) to make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018, says the WHO.

The WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced in a media statement received by the Ghana News Agency Monday that the injectable vaccine, RTS, S, was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum.

The vaccine would be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary malaria control tool which could potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa said: The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot programme will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine. Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”

Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62 per cent reduction in malaria deaths from 2000 to 2015, but approximately 429,000 people still died of the disease in 2015, the majority of them young children in Africa.

The WHO programme will assess whether the vaccine’s protective effect in children from five to 17 months old during Phase 3 testing can be replicated in real life. Specifically, the pilot programme will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS, S, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths, and its safety in the context of routine use.

RTS, S was developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK and is the first malaria vaccine to have successfully completed a Phase three clinical trial. The trial was conducted between 2009 and 2014 through a partnership involving GSK, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a network of African research sites in seven African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.