Cameroon initiated the world's first routine malaria vaccine program for children yesterday amid a resurgence of the mosquito-borne disease in recent years. More than 250,000 children over the age of 5 months are expected to receive the four-dose vaccine this year, as 19 other African countries make plans to follow suit.
Malaria is an illness caused by the microscopic Plasmodium parasite, which infects and destroys red blood cells (watch overview). Over 200 million people are diagnosed annually, and roughly 600,000 die as a result, nearly 80% of whom are children. Almost all cases arise in sub-Saharan Africa, though the US recorded its first local cases in decades last year. See more data here.
The vaccines—created over 30 years ago and first approved in 2021—have shown roughly 30% efficacy in reducing or averting symptoms in Phase 3 clinical trials. Officials claim a combination of antimalarial drugs, vaccines, and the use of mosquito nets is the most effective approach.