Kenya is one of three countries that will take part in a pilot to test the world’s first vaccine for malaria, one of its biggest killer diseases.

The World Health Organisation announced Monday that Kenya, Ghana and Malawi would participate in a programme through which the vaccine, which is known as RTS, S/ASOI or by its trade name, Mosquitrix, would be available for the first time in 2018.

The vaccine, which is is produced by GlaxoSmithKline, based in the UK,  received approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2015, and the WHO recommended a large-scale implementation of the vaccine be carried out last year 

In the next four years (2017-2021), the injectable vaccine will be administered to an estimated 720,000 children aged between five and 17 months in high-risk areas of these three countries.

In Kenya, the National Vaccine and Immunisation Programme will carry out the implementation, working closely with the National Malaria Control Programme and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

Researchers intend to assess whether the ability of the vaccine to protect children aged five to 17 months, which have been observed in earlier trials, can be reproduced in real life situations.

According to the WHO, the pilot programme will seek to find out how realistic it is to deliver the required four doses of the vaccine, its safety in the context of routine use, and the vaccine’s potential contribution towards reducing child deaths.

The vaccine will be given four times—once a month for three months starting from the age of around five months, and then a fourth dose 15 - 18 months after the third dose.

The trial is funded to a tune of about Sh5 billion by the Global Fund, Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (Gavi) and Unitaid, a global health initiative.

The announcement was made ahead of the World Malaria Day which will be celebrated today on April 25.

How bad a killer is malaria? How effective is this vaccine, and how does it work? To better understand what promise this vaccine holds, Nation Newsplex found the answers to some basic questions.

1)Malaria is among the world’s biggest killers

Worldwide, the number of people dying from malaria dropped 62 per cent from the year 2000 to 2015. However the disease  still killed 429,000 people in 2015, including one child every two minutes, according to the WHO.

The vast majority of malaria cases occur in sub Saharan Africa. According to the WHO World Malaria Report 2016, Nigeria suffers more than one quarter of all malaria deaths worldwide (26 per cent), followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (10 per cent), India (six per cent), and Mali (five per cent).

Tanzania and Mozambique each account for four per cent of all deaths, while Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso each suffer three per cent. Niger suffers two per cent of all deaths.

.In Kenya, malaria kills more than 12,000 people and infects about 6.5 million a year, about 14 per cent of Kenya’s entire population in 2016.  According to the Economic Survey 2017,  malaria killed 30,505 people in 2010 and 16,000 people in 2016, a 48 per cent drop

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