Agency: The World Health Organization endorsed the first ever vaccine to prevent malaria, a disease that kills about 500,000 people each year, including hundreds of thousands of African children under the age of 5.
The vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, encourages a child’s immune system to thwart the deadliest and most prevalent of the five malaria pathogens. Clinical trials showed an efficacy of about 50 percent against severe malaria in the first year, but that figure dropped to close to zero by the fourth year.
Some experts have questioned whether the vaccine, with its moderate efficacy, is a worthwhile investment in countries with many other problems. But the director of the W.H.O.’s global malaria program described the new vaccine as a historic event. The vaccine is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease.
Impact: A study last year estimated that if the vaccine were rolled out to countries with the highest incidence of malaria, it could prevent 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children younger than 5 each year.
Next step: Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, will now have to determine if the vaccine is a worthwhile investment. If so, the organization will purchase the vaccine for countries that request it, a process that is expected to take at least a year.