London (AP)–Malawi has become the first country that begins to immunize children against malaria, said on Tuesday the World Health Organization. The initiative uses only approved vaccine to protect against disease, infected by mosquitoes. Although vaccine it just protects around one-third of the children who receive it, it is likely that vaccinees suffer milder cases of malaria. «This disease kills about 435,000 people a year, most children under 5 years old in Africa.» It is an imperfect vaccine, but still have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,»said Alister Craig, Dean of biological sciences of the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, that it is not linked with the who or to the vaccine.
Craig said that immunize children most vulnerable during the high season of malaria could prevent thousands from getting sick or even die.
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. A previous trial showed that it was effective in about 30% of children who received four doses, although the efficacy went down over time. Reported side effects include headache, fever and convulsions.
The director-general of the who, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, celebrated the start of the new programme to ensure that advances in the fight against malaria had been «frozen and even reversed».
The who said that in the coming weeks will begin similar vaccination programs in Kenya and Ghana, with the aim of reaching some 360,000 children a year in the three countries. GSK will donate up to 10 million doses. Other experts warned that vaccination programs should not divert limited funds of public health of the cheap and proven tools that are also able to curb malaria, such as mosquito nets and insecticides.» This is something bold, but it is not a panacea,»said Thomas Churcher, Imperial College London malaria expert. «Provided that the use of the vaccine does not interfere with other efforts, such as the urgent need for new insecticides, it is a good thing.»