Three African countries have been chosen to test the world's first malaria vaccine, the World Health Organization announced Monday. Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will begin piloting the injectable vaccine next year with young children. The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures, the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement. The challenge is whether impoverished countries can deliver the required four doses of the vaccine for each child, the AP reports. Malaria infects more than 200 million people worldwide every year and kills about half a million, most of them children in Africa.
The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether protective effects shown in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. The vaccine has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said. The countries will deliver the vaccine through their existing vaccination programs. WHO is hoping to wipe out malaria by 2040 despite increasing resistance to both drugs and insecticides used to kill mosquitoes.