The UN body’s regional office for Africa said in a statement on Monday that RTS,S injectable vaccine was developed to protect young children from the deadliest form of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum.
“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”
WHO said the vaccine had already been tested on children aged five and 17 months in clinical trials, but the latest programme aimed at seeing whether the protective effect can be replicated in real life.
It will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of the vaccine and its safety in the context of routine use, the statement said.
RTS,S was developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and a network of African research sites in seven African countries.
Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were picked for the trial due to the high number of malaria cases in these countries and the availability of mosquito nets that is required during the test and the well-functioning malaria and immunisation programmes, WHO said.
The statement also said that WHO and GSK would provide $49.2m for the pilot programme, matching the contribution by partners.