When the World Health Organization recommended widespread use of the first malaria vaccine last year, the news reinvigorated the fight against this deadly disease.
The RTS,S vaccine has been many years in the making, between development timelines and subsequent field evaluations prior to the WHO recommendation. As the first vaccine against any parasitic disease, it represents a major milestone both for medical innovation and for global efforts to reduce the suffering and mortality caused by malaria.
Some in the global health community are now asking: Will we finally be able to eradicate this ancient scourge?
The reality is more complex, and history and science point to the need for a plurality of interventions to tackle malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that killed 627,000 people in 2020 — mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s lowest-income regions.
Global malaria cases rose in 2020 due to disruptions related to COVID-19, although they fell by 27% overall between 2000 and 2020. For malaria prevention, no intervention is 100% effective on its own. Yet when tools are combined, their impact can be greater than that of any one alone.
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