Malaria’s most common victims are young children
A child dies of malaria every 60 seconds, according to the World Health Organization’s malaria fact sheet. The disease is spread by mosquitoes, which inject the parasite—for example, Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium vivax—into a person’s bloodstream. These parasites invade the liver and then red blood cells, causing fever, chills, and other symptoms. Malaria’s most common victims are infants and children who have not yet developed any natural resistance to the parasite, and pregnant women, whose immune defenses are lowered.
Malaria is endemic in up to 46 African countries. Multiple malaria interventions—vector control measures, intermittent preventative treatment, and antimalarial drugs—are available. However, drug resistance is growing in many areas, and financing and delivering these interventions is persistently difficult. Even a partially effective vaccine would be an essential complement to other interventions in many malaria control and immunization programs.
Malaria vaccines could complement current strategies
Even as countries expand the use of current strategies to combat malaria, the malaria vaccine community is working toward a 2015 milestone of licensing a first-generation vaccine.
This milestone is laid out in the Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap, a blueprint outlined by the global health community for accelerating the process of developing and making malaria vaccines available to at-risk communities. If developed, a first-generation vaccine would be used alongside existing malaria interventions.