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In a news release Wednesday, the W.H.O. recommended the widespread use of the shot, called Mosquirix, among children in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease runs rampant. Scientists say the vaccine will prevent malaria, a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes, by helping the immune system fight the parasite the moment it’s been injected into the blood.
“This is a historic moment,” W.H.O. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
The new vaccine, which went through four years of clinical trials, is expected to prevent 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children. The W.H.O. estimates that malaria kills 260,000 African children under the age of five on an annual basis. Meanwhile, the organization has found that 94% of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa.
“We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, W.H.O. Regional Director for Africa, said. “Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.”