The world's first malaria vaccine has been approved for use by European regulators who say it safe and effective for use in babies who are at risk of contracting the deadly, mosquito-borne disease. Mana Rabiee reports.
The new anti-malaria drug, called Mosquirix, is 30 years in the making. It's the first ever vaccine against Malaria, a disease that infects some 200 million people each year. An estimated 600,000 people died of the disease in 2013... and experts say, every minute it claims the life of one more child. Andrew Witty is CEO of the drug's co-manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GLAXOSMITHKLINE, CEO, ANDREW WITTY, SAYING: "This is the world's first vaccine against any parasite. It's not just the first vaccine against malaria. It's never been done before and as recently as 10 years ago well informed scientific opinion would say that this was an impossible mission." The vast majority of malaria's victims are babies in sub-Saharan Africa. Aid workers like Simon Wright who heads Save the Children, are cautiously optimistic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SAVE THE CHILDREN, HEAD OF CHILD SURVIVAL, SIMON WRIGHT, SAYING: "It is starting to show an effect for the first time. A lot of questions about it though. How much is it going to be cost? How is it going to be delivered? And how long will it last?" But no one is saying the drug -- also known as RTS,S -- is going to wipe out this mosquito-borne disease. Expectations were already dampened after trial data showed it only provided protection about 25-50 percent of the time. Professor Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says the development of a vaccine has been a huge challenge. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE, PROFESSOR BRIAN GREENWOOD, SAYING: "The malaria parasite is a difficult bug... It has about 5000 genes, it makes lots of different proteins, it's lived with us for a long time and learnt how to evade the immune system that naturally happens when you get an infection". The vaccine will cost about $20 for a full round of immunization. It still faces regulatory and funding hurdles before it's rolled out in Africa so it could be 2017 before the potentially life-saving vaccine is administered to those who need it the most.