Malaria vaccine offers hope to Malawi

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The exercise will involve more than 750,000 children

A first-ever malaria vaccine is offering new hope to Malawi, which has one of the highest rates of deaths of children from the disease.

Malaria is a chronic disease that continues to place a chronic burden on expectant mothers and under-five children in the country.

This pilot vaccine follows successful tightly controlled and well-funded clinical trials and research conducted in the past three decades, says Doctor Matshediso Moeti, the Regional Director for Africa of the World Health Organisation, WHO.

Kenya and Ghana will join Malawi in the exercise, which will involve more than 750,000 children aged between five and 17 months.

Around half will get the vaccine in order to compare its real-world effectiveness.

Researchers opted for Malawi because the country already runs large programmes to tackle malaria, including the use of bed nets.

Despite all this, Malawi is one of the hardest hit and most of the deaths are in children.

The WHO will be running the pilots to see if a full malaria vaccine programme could be started in the next few years.

The organisation will also continue to assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination.

Called RTS, S the vaccine trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquito bites.

Malaria remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Malawi, especially among pregnant women and children aged under five.

Some of the challenges that have affected the implementation of malaria interventions in the country include poor diagnostic capacity, abuse of nets and poor adherence to treatment guidelines and policies.

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