Ghana, Kenya and Malawi will pilot the world’s first malaria vaccine from 2018, offering it for babies and children in high-risk areas as part of real-life trials.
The World Health Organisation said in a statement on Monday that the injectable vaccine is called “Mosquirix”.
The WHO said the vaccine was developed by British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to protect children from the most deadly form of malaria in Africa.
In clinical trials it proved only partially effective, and it needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but is the first regulator-approved vaccine against the mosquito-borne disease.
The WHO, which is in the process of assessing whether to add the shot to core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, has said it first wants to see the results of on-the-ground testing in a pilot programme.
“Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO African regional director, said in a statement as the three pilot countries were announced.
“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”
Malaria kills around 430,000 people a year, the vast majority of them babies and young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Global efforts in the last 15 years cut the malaria death toll by 62 per cent between 2000 and 2015.
The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the Mosquirix’s protective effect in children aged five to 17 months can be replicated in real-life.
It will also assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses needed, and explore the vaccine’s potential role in reducing the number of children killed by the disease.
The WHO said Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programmes, wide use of bed-nets, and well-functioning immunisation programmes.
The UN organisation said each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots.
It also said high malaria areas will get priority since these are where experts expect to see most benefit from the use of the vaccine.
“Mosquirix” was developed by GSK in partnership with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The WHO said in November it had secured full funding for the first phase of the drugs pilots.
The organisation said the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis would provide 15 million dollars and up to 27.5 million dollars and 9.6 million dollars respectively from the Global Vaccine Alliance and UN global health initiative for the first four years of the programme.