Malawi has become the first country to start immunizing children against malaria, the World Health Organization says.
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The country will use the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease. The vaccine, called Mosquirix, was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015, the Associated Press reported.
The vaccine only protects about one-third of children against malaria. But even if it doesn’t prevent the disease, the vaccine can reduce the risk of severe malaria.
“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, U.K., told the AP.
It could prevent many thousands of children from falling ill with malaria or dying, according to Craig, who is not associated with the WHO or the vaccine.
Malaria kills about 435,000 people every year, most of them children under 5 in Africa, the AP reported.
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