Three African countries trying out first malaria vaccine in babies

TOMALI (AP) — The southern African nation is rolling out the shots in an unusual pilot programme along with Kenya and Ghana. Unlike established vaccines that offer near-complete protection, this new one is only about 40 per cent effective.

With the vaccine, dubbed Mosquirix, the hope is to help small children through the most dangerous period of their lives. Spread by mosquito bites, malaria kills more than 400,000 people every year, two-thirds of them under five and mostly in Africa.

Mosquirix uses a piece of the parasite — a protein found only on sporozoites’ surface — in hopes of blocking the liver stage of infection.

When a vaccinated child is bitten, the immune system should recognise the parasite and start making antibodies against it.

For now, only babies in parts of Malawi, Kenya and Ghana are eligible for the Mosquirix vaccine. After the vaccine was approved in 2015, the World Health Organization said it first wanted a pilot roll-out to see how well it worked in a few countries — in real-world conditions — before recommending that the vaccine be given more widely across Africa.