The World Health Organization recommended Wednesday that children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions on the continent with moderate-to-high malaria transmission receive a malaria vaccine.
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, proved effective in a pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.
The WHO said malaria is a top killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa, causing the deaths of more than 260,000 children under age 5 every year.
The vaccine, which requires four doses, counters P. falciparum, "the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa," WHO said in a press release.
"For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement. "We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. Today's recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults."
According to WHO, pilot program data showed that more than two-thirds of children who were not sleeping under bed nets were benefiting from the vaccine, and that there was a 30% reduction in "deadly severe malaria, even when introduced in areas where insecticide-treated nets are widely used and there is good access to diagnosis and treatment."
The pilot program also found that the vaccine had a "favorable safety profile" and was "cost effective."
According to The Wall Street Journal, it could still be years until the vaccine is widely available.
The vaccine has been under development for 30 years by GlaxoSmithKline, a global pharmaceutical company; PATH, a global nonprofit focused on health issues; and some African research organizations, WHO said.
The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation provided late-stage development funding for the vaccine, WHO said.