Children across much of Africa are to be offered a vaccine for malaria as efforts to stamp out the deadly disease are ramped up.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended widespread use of RTS,S malaria vaccine – developed by British pharmeutical giant GSK – for children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high levels of malaria transmission.
More than 260,000 African children die from malaria every year.
The global health body said that the decision “changes the course of public health history”.
The jab has already been delivered to more than 800,000 children through an ongoing pilot programme across Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
WHO said that the jab has a strong safety profile and is feasible to deliver.
It said that the jab could save tens of thousands of lives a year.
WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control.
“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, added: “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.”