A total of 18 million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine will be allocated in 12 African countries in response to high demand.
Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, already participating in the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP), have administered the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine to more than 1.7 million children since 2019. They will continue allocating the vaccine, which was shown to be safe and effective, substantially reducing severe malaria cases and child deaths.
The vaccine will be newly introduced in nine countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.
The first doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in countries during the last quarter of 2023, with countries starting to roll them out by early 2024.
"This vaccine has the potential to be very impactful in the fight against malaria, and when broadly deployed alongside other interventions, it can prevent tens of thousands of future deaths every year," says Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. "While we work with manufacturers to help ramp up supply, we need to make sure the doses that we do have are used as effectively as possible, which means applying all the learnings from our pilot programmes as we broaden out to a new total of 12 countries."
MVIP is coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid.
The RTS,S/AS01 is the first malaria vaccine for children recommended by the WHO. It acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa. During a large phase 3 trial in regions of moderate to high malaria transmission, the vaccine reduced malaria cases by over half in the first year after vaccination and by 40% during 4 years of follow-up.
In a more recent trial conducted between 2017 to 2020, the vaccine demonstrated efficacy similar to that of Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC), which has been shown to prevent around 75% of malaria cases.
Malaria remains one of Africa’s deadliest diseases, killing nearly half a million children under the age of 5 each year. In 2021, Africa accounted for about 95% of global malaria cases and 96% of deaths.
Annual global demand for malaria vaccines is estimated at 40 to 60 million doses by 2026 alone, growing to 80 to 100 million doses each year by 2030.
A second vaccine candidate, R21/Matrix-M, is expected to help meet soaring demand. Developed by the University of Oxford researchers, the vaccine has already been approved in Ghana for use in children aged 5 to 36 months. In the phase 2b clinical trial enrolling 450 participants, the R21/Matrix-M vaccine showed 77% efficacy and could also be prequalified by the WHO soon.
- Gavi The Vaccine Alliance. 18 million doses of first-ever malaria vaccine allocated to 12 African countries for 2023–2025: Gavi, WHO and UNICEF.
- The World Health Organization. Q&A on RTS,S malaria vaccine.
- The World Health Organization. WHO recommends groundbreaking malaria vaccine for children at risk.
- The University of Oxford. R21/Matrix-M™ malaria vaccine developed by University of Oxford receives regulatory clearance for use in Ghana.