Promising new malaria vaccine has been approved in two countries, with others likely to follow

An estimated 619,000 people died of malaria in 2021, the latest annual total available. Two relatively new vaccines could help protect young children.

Ghana and Nigeria both approved a new malaria vaccine this month — an important step in the fight against a disease that kills more than 600,000 people annually.

At least 10 other African countries are reviewing trial data for the shot, according to the World Health Organization, so more approvals are expected in the coming weeks.

The vaccine, developed by researchers at Oxford University, is the second to become publicly available. The first, a shot called Mosquirix from drugmaker GSK, has been administered through a pilot program in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi since 2019 but is still in limited supply.

The new vaccine is the first malaria shot to be approved in Nigeria, whose deaths from the disease make up 31% of the worldwide total.

“It’s good news,” said Dyann Wirth, an infectious diseases professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, adding, “These vaccines can save lives and save hospitalizations, reduce the impact of the disease in the most vulnerable young children.”