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The world’s first vaccine against malaria, an infectious disease transmitted by a specific type of mosquito, is now in use in three African countries.
The vaccine, called the RTS,S, was developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK). With the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and its international partners, the anti-malaria vaccine was released in Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana.
According to the WHO, the RTS,S was created specifically for African countries. This is because malaria largely affects the said region. In fact, records show that 93% of all malaria-related deaths in 2017 occurred in the African region, and most of the victims were children. Globally, the disease causes approximately 435,000 deaths every year.
To combat malaria and reduce the deaths associated with the disease, the vaccine will be given to around 360,000 children in the three countries. These children are expected to receive four doses of the vaccine each year.
Prior to its launch, the vaccine underwent various clinical trials for five years. Test results revealed that the RTS,S prevented around 40% of malaria cases. However, the scientists also discovered some side effects, including fever and seizure. The WHO clarified that these unwanted effects would not last long. Based on previous tests, children who experienced seizures recuperated eventually.
A scientist who is not connected with the WHO pointed out that the vaccine is a brilliant invention despite it giving only 40% protection. He said that the protection one can get from the RTS,S is relatively better than not getting any protection at all.