AFRICA – The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has awarded a US$170 million malaria vaccine contract to pharma giant GSK plc, formerly GlaxoSmithKline plc, to ensure millions of children are protected against the killer disease.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund announced that the landmark award will lead to 18 million doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine RTS, S vaccine being available over the next three years.
“The RTS, S malaria vaccine is the first-ever vaccine against a parasitic disease. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes,” UNICEF said in a press statement.
According to UNICEF, malaria is caused by parasites and transmitted to humans through infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease is preventable and curable but it can be fatal if left untreated.
The UN agency noted that more than 30 countries have areas with moderate to high malaria transmission and the vaccine could provide added protection to more than 25 million children each year once supply ramps up.
Given the initial limited supply, it is crucial that children living in areas where the risk of disease and need is highest are prioritized first.
Furthermore, the landmark vaccine supply agreement valued at around US$170 million seeks to address the global malaria burden at a time when malaria remains one of the biggest killers of children under five.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund is currently supporting malaria vaccine developers to continue their work with an ambitious goal to accelerate malaria elimination in Africa and beyond.
Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEFOpens in new window’s Supply Division, emphasized that continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines as well as to increase available supply and ultimately enable a healthier vaccine market.
“This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes,” she reaffirmed.
UNICEF confirmed that Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has provided funding for malaria vaccine programmes in eligible countries thus opening the pathway for broader roll-out of the vaccine, noting that plans are already underway to boost production
At the same time, WHO has welcomed progress in securing supply and timely access to the vaccine so that more countries can introduce it as soon as possible.
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