Undated photo of World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the announcement of a new vaccine for malaria on Monday. File Photo by World Health Organization/Twitter
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization on Monday recommended a new vaccine for malaria, the mosquito-borne disease, which continues to plague the African region and kills nearly 500,000 children annually.
The recommendation adds the R21/Matrix-M to the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine that was recommended by the WHO in 2021 but faces high demand despite limited supply.
Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in preventing malaria in children and the WHO said when implemented broadly, the two vaccines could have a "high public health impact," boosting supply to benefit all children living in high-risk malaria areas.
"As a malaria researcher, I used to dream of the day we would have a safe and effective vaccine against malaria," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "Now we have two. Demand for the RTS,S vaccine far exceeds supply, so this second vaccine is a vital additional tool to protect more children faster, and to bring us closer to our vision of a malaria-free future."
The WHO said the R21 vaccine reduced symptomatic cases of malaria by 75% during the 12 months following a 3-dose series, showing high efficacy when administered just before high transmission season.
It also was expected to perform similarly to the RTS,S vaccine and is cost-effective at a price of $2-$4 per dose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness and if left untreated could lead to severe complications and death.
In 2020, an estimated 241 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 627,000 people died, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa. About 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year.
WHO also issued recommendations on the advice of SAGE for new vaccines for dengue and meningitis, along with an immunization schedule and product recommendations for COVID-19.