Malaria vaccine hailed as potential major milestone in global fight

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Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through mosquito bites. WHO File Photo

A new malaria vaccine that could change the way the disease is confronted is a potential "major milestone" in public health, the UN's health agency said on Friday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) made the announcement after the vaccine received a positive assessment from the European drug-testing agency EMA.

WHO estimates that more than half a million people die of malaria each year.

Daniel Dickinson reports.

While welcoming the European Medical Association's positive assessment of the new malaria vaccine, the World Health Organization stressed that it was still in clinical trials.

The agency said the earliest it might be licensed for countries where malaria is endemic is 2017.

Spokesperson Gregory Hartl said that it was the "first time ever" a malaria vaccine had made it so far in the testing phase.

But he urged caution.

"People have been trying to develop malaria vaccines for decades…and this is the first time ever that one has got so far…So it's a big development but it's not finished yet and our work starts now, because we don't look have to look at it from a public health perspective."

The next step is for WHO to assess the vaccine.

That will involve looking at the challenges rolling it out in developing countries, as well as its availability.

WHO stressed that any financing for the vaccine must not draw resources away from existing prevention methods, such as bed nets, effective drugs and rapid diagnostic tests.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations.

Duration: 1'14"

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