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There are now 2 vaccines to slash the frightful toll of malaria

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The World Health Organization has recommended a new vaccine for kids, this one for children between 5 and 36 months. Here's the WHO's director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: I used to dream of the day when we would have a safe and effective vaccine against malaria. Now we have two.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Ari Daniel brings us more about this second vaccine.

ARI DANIEL, BYLINE: In Burkina Faso in West Africa, pretty much everyone gets malaria. Last year, out of a population of 20-some million, about half got sick. Halidou Tinto was one of them. He leads the Clinical Research Unit of Nanoro in the country. His 6-year-old twins also fell ill with malaria this year.

HALIDOU TINTO: As soon as they're febrile or they complain about headache, you have to think about malaria and treat them immediately, and you can avoid any bad outcome of the disease.

DANIEL: The worst outcome is death. Tinto says 4,000 people died of malaria last year in Burkina Faso alone. In 2021, across Africa, more than 600,000 died of the mosquito-borne disease, most of them children.

TINTO: People are living with the disease, but, of course, we are not happy, and we are not proud of this.

DANIEL: That's why the WHO's approval of a second malaria vaccine is such welcome news. Tinto ran the clinical trials in Burkina Faso that helped lead to its recommendation, trials that, across four countries, saw a 75% reduction in malaria cases in the year following vaccination of young children. These kids are among the most vulnerable to the disease.

TINTO: I am very, very happy, and we are pretty sure that this vaccine will have a big impact.

DANIEL: That impact includes addressing a major shortfall in the supply of the first vaccine approved almost two years ago. And it comes at an important time in the fight against malaria, since numerous countries are now reporting growing resistance to what had been a powerful drug for decades. Dr. Mary Hamel is with the WHO.

MARY HAMEL: The estimates are that by adding the vaccine to the current tools that are in place, tens of thousands of children's lives will be saved every year - so quite substantial.

DANIEL: Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India says it plans to make a hundred million doses available to countries by the middle of next year.

Ari Daniel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ari Daniel is a reporter for NPR's Science desk where he covers global health and development.